Mason Casey

Mason Casey
Sofa King Badass

NorthernBlues Music NBM0024

By Karen Nugent
October 2007

How could you not like the title of this disc? The song, a funky thang, comes halfway through the record. But that party feel is carried throughout the disc.

Harpist Mason Casey, a New Yorker who worked as a stone mason (hence the name?), became well-known in the New York City blues scene during the 1990s, after working his way up the ranks via the streets and small clubs. Casey eventually hooked up with Jon Tiven, a songwriter and soul music producer who worked with B.B. King, Wilson Pickett and Little Milton.

Tiven liked Casey enough to have him play harmonica and sing on some of the records he produced, including Pickettís. In fact, Pickettís “Nine Times A Man” is the second song on this disc.

Sofa King Badass, with 14 tracks, including 11 written by Casey with Tiven and others, is Caseyís first U.S.-released album. He had three earlier records in France.

The disc is fun. Caseyís harp playing is the strong point; his growling, gravelly vocals - not so much.

He is backed by a full band, though not on every song. That means trumpet, alto and tenor sax - even bells. Not exactly your gritty blues band, but it works for the most part.

The opening track, “You Make It Hard” (yes, pun intended “You try to play it cool, act unimpressed/But you canít stop yourself from staring at her chest”) is one of the better songs. Itís fast and danceable.

One of the best blues songs on the disc is “Take Me To The Airport,” which is highlighted by crack bluesy guitar, and piano, by Jimmy Johnson. Another, “Thatís My Heart” a swampy shuffle, showcases Caseyís harp. “Done Crying”, with Steve Cropper on fine guitar, has too much brass.

“Chesterfield County Jail” is a hard rockiní blues number, again featuring Johnson on screaming guitar.

Another winner is “Blue Hair Woman.”

Co-written by Al Franken, the song is, of course, funny: “You only got just a few years left, why donít you spend them with me/Leave everything to me;” “I know Iím not the first to satisfy your thirst, but it feels so long since Harry died.” And “Blue hair woman, donít worry if people stare/ People donít know about the find under your blue hair.”

The tune ends with Casey rapping, in a black-inflected tone, about spending the womanís savings.

But despite the silliness, the tune has some fantastic slide guitar and harp.

The disc ends with “My Prayer,” a religious number, as you might figure (“All I have to do is pray, pray, pray and you always answer me”) is interesting, and has some good female back up singers. Again, Casey is great on harp, and thereís some fine electric piano by Tiven.

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