Always Been

Always Been

Mason Jennings has an offhand musical way about him where he tosses off his lines as if he isn’t noticing the care he put into writing them. It’s a charming, understated way of drawing a crowd, and those who've followed his career have been treated to a great many unassuming classics, usually strummed on an acoustic guitar and little else. “Patti and Robert” regards the relationship between Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which Smith beautifully chronicled in her National Book Award–winning memoir Just Kids; Jennings wrote a reaction based in love and empathy. “Instrument” goes even further into Jennings’ desire to be everything to everyone—or to one lucky person. Always Been is produced by guitarist Bo Ramsey, who creates a small-band feel behind Jennings on the piano and strings with backing vocals of “Number of the Sun” and a fuller guitar-harmonica-piano-drums shuffle for “So Good.” The joy here is so simple and natural that Jennings often captures a childlike wonder not unlike Jonathan Richman's.

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