Sofa King Badass
Mason Casey is a stone mason and an actor, having appeared in the
recent movie Get Smart, and the TV series Jericho. He’s
also been wowing blues fans in New York City and Los Angeles since the
early ’90s with his rocked-up version of soul/blues. After meeting
producer/songwriter Jon Tiven, he began writing and demo-ing songs.
Tiven eventually used him as a vocalist and harmonica player on several
records he was producing, including releases by Wilson Pickett and Don
Covay. Pickett was really impressed with Casey’s performance, comparing
his vocals to those of Joe Cocker’s. Popa Chubby produced Casey for
three releases on the Dixiefrog label from 2000 to 2003, but Tiven
handled all the production on Casey’s most recent release, Sofa King
Badass (NorthernBlues Music).
Collaborating on this disc is a cast that would make up a veritable Rock
and Soul Hall of Fame roster. In addition to Tiven and his wife Sally,
who plays bass, the list includes Jonell Mosser, who contributes
background vocals, as well as Covay, Steve Cropper, who plays guitar on
a couple of tracks, Chicago guitarist Jimmy Johnson, Felix Cavaliere,
and Wayne Jackson on trumpet. The session was recorded at Dan Penn’s
studio in Nashville, with Penn serving as one of the engineers.
Casey is a highly original songwriter and teams up with Tiven, Cropper,
Johnson, and Cavaliere on 11 of the 14 songs. Two songs, “Taxi Love” and
“Nine Times A Man,” both co-written by the Tivens, appeared respectively
on Pickett’s late ’90s comeback album, It’s Harder Now and
Covey’s Adlib CD, and “Blue Hair Woman” is a composition
co-written by the Tivens and Al Franken from their mid ’80s foray into
music (The Tom Davis Experience featuring Al Franken). Wisely, Casey
doesn’t try to emulate Pickett’s tempestuous style, settling into his
own gruff, but soulful style, which works to perfection, especially on
“Nine Times A Man,” which also features a vocal spot by Covay.
The originals are also impressive, ranging from rockers like “You Make
It Hard,” “Chesterfield County Jail,” the wild title track, and “It
Takes A Lotta Love,” to deep funky soul like “Let Me In,” “Take Me To
The Airport,” and “Done Crying,” to straight blues cuts like “That’s My
Sofa King Badass, like any release that has Jon Tiven’s
fingerprints on it, is a robust mixture of rock, soul, and blues that
will please fans of all three styles. You’ll be hearing more of Mason
Casey in the future. Count on it.
--- Graham Clarke