Stuart Mason is pounding and sawing and hammering on his second solo album, a collection of all original “oldternative” hillbilly folk, as he calls it. Working in his own home studio, he’s assembling rough cuts in Garageband before bringing them into ProTools for final takes. And although he records on digital gear, he’s soldering up old telephones, radio speakers and stomp boxes in his quest for a new sound that evokes a vintage, Tom Waitsian vibe. Some songs were written and rewritten over many years, evolving in time, while others are brand new babies, sprung to life from the fertile womb of the creative process.
“This will be my first project of all original songs,” says Stuart. “I mean, being a traditional player, I don’t hesitate to rework old lyrics or melodies from the public domain, which is really just the folk process. But I like to think of myself as a recycling center. The old songs live on because they are brilliant. If I can somehow contribute to that tradition and make it relevant today, then I’ve done my job. Old is the new alternative.”
Veteran picker Stuart Mason is known for his authentic vocals and nimble skill on guitar, mandola, and banjo. He has won awards for traditional singing (Goleta Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention), mandola (Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest), and songwriting (West Coast Songwriter’s Association). Stuart Mason was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia, and like many of his fellow Mountaineers, he grew up in Ohio. After high school, he supported himself playing bluegrass and country music around Cincinnati. He graduated from Ohio State and returned to West Virginia, where he lived in Upshur County, worked as a park ranger and traveled to local fairs and festivals from the eastern panhandle to the Kentucky border. While living in the remote cottage of his grandmother and traveling around the state, he heard firsthand the oldest forms of Appalachian music, and learned to play it.
He is a member of international touring Celtic band Molly’s Revenge, and has performed at festivals in China, Scotland, Ireland, and many of the United States. He also tours with oldtime bluegrass band Little Black Train and Celtic folk band Story Road, and performs with the Old-Time Fiddle and Banjo Show, a loose confederation of pickers and sawyers that come together for a long-running weekly residency at Pappy McGregor’s in San Luis Obispo. When not gigging, he teaches, writes, and builds websites. His music blog Fiddlefreak is five years old.