Willy Mason’s fourth album – and first in almost a decade – ‘Already Dead’ is the first to be written and recorded in his home in Martha Vineyard. It finds the singer-songwriter searching for love, trust and justice in a fractured society – taking in magic, miracles, ghosts and world leaders along the way. Regarding the themes of the album, Willy says: ‘Already Dead is a spiritual state to aspire to; it is freedom from the trappings and inhibitions of one’s ego, culture, and mythology. It is freedom and love and freedom to love in the face of death.’
Album opener ‘Youth On a Spit’ has the guitars turned up from the get-go and finds Willy delving into a Guided by Voices-style alt-rock sond with melodic, woozy hooks and plenty of effects: ‘It’s a cultural block, a new state of shock’; ‘You can’t kill me, I’m already dead’. After its sudden stop, the album moves on to ‘You’d Like to Be Free’, a track with wonky bass and a running theme about mortality: ‘Raise a glass, drink a toast, shed your skin, feed your ghost’. ‘Gilded Lie’ is a slower slice of anxiety pop as Willy offers musings on both the fear of life and fear of death: ‘The truth will live in every note’. ‘Reservation’ continues in this stripped-back vein, transporting us back to Willy’s debut ‘Where the Humans Eat’ with the solo guitar notes being accompanied by his baritone vocals.
‘Oh My County’ sounds like it’s been recorded straight to tape with observations about how a country’s flag has been frayed quickly progressing to the actions of a boogeyman – and after the past few years, it’s clear who that’s referring to. There’s despair in the vocals as Willy sighs ‘Oh my country, you told me you belong to me’ and ponders how ‘they won’t survive liberty for one and all, equality’. There’s more of a psychedelic edge to the short interlude of ‘Slowslide’ while ‘One of the Good Ones’ has ’60s delta-stop blues vibes running throughout as Willy offers call-and-response reassurance to a loved one: ‘Sometimes you regret it, but you’re one of the good ones’. ‘Outwit the Devil’ follows, telling the tale of someone who did something bad when there was nowhere else to turn – and how they’re now thinking smarter to get out of the situation, all against a pacy piano-tinged backdrop.
‘If There’s a Heart’ is another more intimate affair with hushed vocals touchingly reminding the listener how ‘Everything can be replaced. Everything can find its place when there’s a heart’. The closing ‘Worth It’ finds Willy dipping his toes back into that bluesy dive bar sound with potent melodies, jaunty handclaps and a thrilling climax that finds him passionately declaring ‘I know it’s worth it’.
This album’s been a long time coming but we have to agree – ‘Already Dead’ is worth the wait.