Mason Jennings, Brett Dennen, Missy Higgins
The Vogue, 6259 N. College Ave.
Thursday, May 1, 7:30 p.m., $18, 21+
Given the type of musician that he is, it probably wasn’t that surprising when folk-pop singer/songwriter Mason Jennings decided to beat a retreat after his major-label debut, 2006’s “Boneclouds.” For his newest record, “In the Ever,” Jennings took a trip into a studio in the woods, his only recording equipment a laptop and two microphones.
“Studios are too unnatural,” Jennings said. “It feels like you’re in a hospital room. So I decided to go to a place where I could record music that actually sounds like the environment they were written in.”
The result is an album that’s diverse both musically and thematically. There are uptempo numbers such as “I Love You and Buddha Too,” a revivalist foot-stomper with a Cat Stevens-like message of universal peace and “Your New Man,” from the Johnny Cash school of making humor out of heartbreak.
“I try to be present with my own life, whatever I’m feeling,” he said. “It’s important for people to see that I come from a certain tradition. But I also don’t want people to ever confuse me with anyone else. I try to be diverse, because people have heard all kinds of music.”
Indeed, “In the Ever” has its serious side, exploring such issues as geopolitical events and crises in faith. Jennings described his parents as “indifferent” to matters of religion, and the album partially chronicles his search for answers.
“I grew up and ended up meeting a lot of people who based their entire lives around their faith, and I found that interesting,” he said. “Then when my son was born, I felt a presence; there was nothing like it.”
Perhaps the most striking track of all is “Going Back to New Orleans,” a front-porch, harmonica-driven cavalcade that opens with a fade-in and closes by fading out, giving the impression that we happened to stumble briefly on a moment in time, an almost cinematic effect.
“I wrote that really fast, because I wanted to be spontaneous, like when I was little,” he said. “Katrina was a real eye-opener. That whole cities can be wiped out, and what a delicate balance we live in.”