There are few musicians that wear their heart on their sleeve like Mason Jennings does. For over a decade, he has written about his beliefs, losses, loves and, the faith in redemption. His craft has developed slowly from his eponymous debut recorded on an analog four-track in the living room of a rented home in 1997 where he played all the instruments himself. Jennings went on to gain critical acclaim and a following of loyal fans, including this writer. From Birds Flying Away (2000) to Blood of Man (2009), the folk/indy/rock music written by Jennings was part political activism and part spiritual awakening.Â Over those 10-plus years, he also grew as a man.
On Minnesota, the now 36-year-old father, Jennings is thinking about his past transgressions, the pain in his heart, and balance in life. Still rooted in spiritual and political activism, Jennings is now reminiscing about the past, coming to terms with alcoholism, and looking hesitantly into the future. The lyrics swing like a pendulum back and forth, from loss to love, death to life,Â and future to past.
Perhaps the most telling example is â€œWake Up,â€ where Jennings talks about living with, and accepting, alcoholism. Seeking help from his disease, he laments: â€œWake up youâ€™re dying now,Â You should be dead but youâ€™re not somehow, You think youâ€™re being brave but youâ€™re digging a grave, You talk like a master but you live like a slave.â€ After meditation and introspection, he realized there was a balance to living with the disease, singing, â€œWake up youâ€™re living now,Â Youâ€™ve been gone so long do you remember how, Just be yourself, thatâ€™s being brave, Youâ€™re not the master but you sure arenâ€™t a slave.â€
Itâ€™s difficult for the average person to acknowledge their shortcomings and then grow from those insights. Mason Jennings does both, and then delivers his introspection in a 50-minute recording to the rest of us.
As Mason Jennings grows, so do we.
Minnesota is out now on Stats & Brackets/Thirty Tigers