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Mason Jennings | Century Spring (Setanta)
Self-released in the USA, Jennings' third album (having sold an astonishing 30,000 copies of his previous records on the road) gets a UK release via Setanta. Ten variations on the tried and trusted theme of love, delivered with effortless aplomb by Jennings whose voice and instrumental skills conjure an appropriately Lou Reed-esque simplicity on New York City, and an authentic folkiness on closer Adrian. There's reverb-doused Simon and Garfunkel melancholy in the acoustic lament to Dewey Dell and, on Forgiveness, a stripped down piano recalls the retro-pop of Mike Levy (The Sneetches) or an arrangement-free Archer Prewitt. Perhaps most reminiscent of fellow pop-driven songsmiths Josh Rouse and Ron Sexsmith, Jennings delivers his songs irony-free, knowing he won't be walking away with any innovation awards but safe in the knowledge that there will always be a place for a melody and an audience unconcerned with flavour of the month fads. Only on the Jealous Guy sound-alike, East of Eden, does he drift into easy-listening mawkishness, a forgivable blip on an otherwise satisfying, if unchallenging, listen.

Matt Dornan
August 2002