Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Allow me to speak for all of us right now, just for a minute. It seems that the preponderance of our skepticism is putting us all under. There are all kinds of reminders to not sweat the stuff that's referred to as the "small stuff," and yet all that gets sweated is the small stuff. There's an overwhelming propensity to proclaim that the world's going into the shitter and yet, what does any of that really, truly mean. You can hear old men grumbling about their disappearing liberties, the ever-lengthening arm and ever-widening hand of the government and how they're having colder and colder sweats every night. They can't help themselves but to sweat and wrestle through restless nights as they ponder the "dire" circumstances, while all it comes down to is that they have a little less money than they did before. For all of the talk about how everything's ugly and broken, there are not all that many pieces of evidence that can be called upon, to suggest that anything is as bad or close to being as bad as the doomsayers say it is. A better slogan to consider during these times - and one that Mason Jennings, in a way has always sponsored and been infatuated with - is the phrase that urges us to think locally. It can be meant to mean whatever you'd like, but for our sake, we're going to take it on its most micro level and consider local standing for something like the self and the other bodies close to it. It's a household. It's a husband and a wife, a boyfriend (two boyfriends), a girlfriend or two, kids, neighbors, whatever's closest - within a few blocks or whomever shares a little blood and familial bone structure or hair color and lines. Jennings has always been preoccupied with the ticker and what it stands for, what it relies on and what in the hell its intentions are. It seems as if he's able to speak to them and carry on a conversation that's lasted for a good handful of records now. It's this conversation that never tires for him and on his latest album, "Minnesota," the Minnesotan once again tackles that muscle that's supposedly the hardest working, but occasionally is just the hardest. Sometimes it's just a wooden block and others, it's a rain-drenched green, with anything landing on it just sticking to it, leaving an indention that takes time to unwind. Jennings has a way of setting us at ease, even when those hearts are afire, even when there's no hope in sight. He tends to focus on the things they're great for and even when they're going through their inevitable rough patches, there are promising odds that all will get worked out. We hear in Jennings' honeyed delivery and his super cool ass demeanor, a piece of the music that's not musical at all. It's the opposite of a wry smile, but rather a knowing one, a piece of teeth that's experienced plenty of highs and even more lows and one that recognizes that those in the former column far outweigh those in the latter. If it could just be the priority to focus on the chemistry of a good home - raising happy children, making a wife or husband or what have you feel as happy as they possibly can be - the woes of that bigger scope would be obsolete, or so much less noticeable. It's better to think about the times when a hard kiss led to some chipped front teeth or that you've never felt more like two people were meant for each other than you do right now. Perhaps you've felt that way since the first day you met. Perhaps that was yesterday. Perhaps that was years and years ago. Either way, you get to that and you stick with that and you're lucky, as lucky as any of us ever get.