Dave Mason keeps up his rock work in Tahoe
October 6, 2011
Dave Mason isn’t slowing down.
The 65-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member appears at Tahoe for the second time in four months when he performs Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room. He opened for the Steve Miller Band in July – “It went great” – at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys.
He will perform Oct. 11 in New York with Miller again, and he has some upcoming shows with acoustic duo partner John Sambataro.
Mason was polite but not as glib as he has been in previous conversations with Lake Tahoe Action.
“When home I am in studio (in Santa Barbara), recording songs – new songs and rerecording old songs,” he said.
Mason has performed and recorded with Traffic, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. His best known songs he performs are “We Just Disagree,” “Mr. Fantasy,” “Feelin’ Alright” and the tune he performed with Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower.” Mason played acoustic guitar on the tune that appeared on the 1968 album “Electric Ladyland.”
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“I was very fortunate to be able to work with someone like that,” Mason said. “(Hendrix) was all about work. He wasn’t about wasting time. There won’t be another one.”
Mason met Hendrix after the Seattle guitarist, struggling for recognition in the United States, moved to Britain.
“There were several clubs in London that were after-hours, and were sort of private,” Mason said. “I mean, you could walk in somewhere and there’d be (John) Lennon and Mick Jagger and somebody else. They’d keep coming in and out because it was a small community.
“I just sat down and started talking to (Hendrix) one night. It was a mutual – He dug Traffic, and we sort of struck up a (friendship). I was a kid, 18, 19 years old. I was learning. I figured I might as well be around the best.”
Mason said he doesn’t know who might be the next rising star.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said. “The last person who I could tell that with was (Paul) McCartney, him and (John) Lennon.
“I am working so much. When I am home I am working on my own stuff so I don’t really get a chance to listen to other stuff. Especially other stuff, unless I happen to hear it on the radio. The problem for pretty much anybody from what I can see is there’s no radio anymore. There’s no way for an artist to play new music.”
In October 2008 Mason released his first studio album in 21 years, “26 Letters – 12 Notes.”
The album travels to some surprising territories, but never strays from the solid, simple, classic Dave Mason delivery. Two tracks have an especially atypical sound from Mason:
• “El Toro” is Mason’s 3-minute, 36-second answer to Miles Davis’ outstretched “Sketches in Spain.” It’s an instrumental homage to bullfighting, and a potential soundtrack to a movie in the works called “The Red Blanket.”
• “That’s Love” is a funk-based track with Sheila E on percussion and supporting vocals.
“I’ve always wanted to be very eclectic on my albums,” Mason said. “Never really one style.”
Keyboardist Mike Finnigan, who was in Mason’s group for nine years when he was with Columbia Records and is in the Phantom Blues Band, appears on the album.
“How Do I Get to Heaven” has Willie Nelson on acoustic guitar. A verse, and the song’s inspiration, came from Traffic bandmate Jim Capaldi.
“A girl up in Santa Barbara that he had been writing some music with and hanging out, her son has a band,” Mason said “She brought me this tape about six months after (Capaldi) died, a cassette, with this song, ‘How Do We Get to Heaven.’
“It’s nothing like the song that’s on this album. But the words that Jim had written – you know, we grew up together and played in bands together as kids – it was written as really a downer. So I rewrote it and kept the first verse and the lyrics of the chorus, and then I wrote the rest of the song around it. I think it’s the best song on the album.”
Capaldi wrote “You’re Standing in My Light,” another highlight on “26 Letters – 12 Notes.”
“Jim was very much into history,” Mason said. “It’s based on Alexander the Great, but then it could be anybody and anything. I loved the whole concept. To me it’s humorous.”
According to “Discourses by Dio Chrysostom” in the Leob Classical Library, “The story goes that while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight one morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favor he might do for him. Diogenes replied, ‘Yes: Stand out of my sunlight.'”
The album represents seven years of work by Mason, who had trouble finding a label until Out The Box Records took interest.
“It’s a really great album, and it deserves to be heard,” Mason said. “That’s the next piece of the puzzle: getting it out there for people to hear it.”