Pennsylvania Americana group Mason Porter formed over a decade ago in West Chester initially gaining steam, as most bluegrass acts must, as a relentless touring act. While the festival circuit is where improvisational prowess often makes its mark, Mason Porter’s ventures in the studio these past few years has clearly distinguished them. The surge of inspired writing and song crafting that began with Home For The Harvest (2014) deepened on their critically acclaimed follow up Key To The Skyway (2015). Here’s a group that has all the dynamics going for them; profound songwriting, effortless harmony, and genre-bending compositions that change on a dime. Never slowing down, allowing the currents of their tributaries to flow even further, Joe D’Amico (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Tim Celfo (upright bass, vocals), Paul Wilkinson (guitar, vocals), Sarah Larsen (violin) and Evan Smoker (drums) crafted their influential new studio statement to benefit and celebrate the National Park Service centennial.
This EP is a thematic extension of the keenness for nature apparent on Key To The Skyway, but now Mason Porter will utilize an upcoming supporting tour in conjunction with the U.S. National Parks Service. The album’s title track is influenced by the journals of iconic California naturalist John Muir, whose conservationist efforts helped protect and preserve Northern California’s precious wilderness. The EP’s six tracks are individually distinct, while continually honoring the album’s muse. “See America” is a quintessential example of the group’s autonomous blend of styles, grassy in nature with new wave pep and impressive fiddle leads from Larsen. “Box of Answers” is musically evocative of The Everly Brothers and lyrically reminiscent of the original New Riders of the Purple Sage album. The track expresses the hardships of understanding our impact on those pristine surrounding.
The blissfully subdued “Shenandoah,” the most folky and traditional of the bunch, possesses a Celtic twinge alongside strong vocal harmonies. “You And I” is wondrously odd, displaying the softer side of the band’s distorted electric. It might be the strongest studio track as it’s most revealing their multifarious capabilities. It collides with the climactic “Yosemite,” an instrumental tribute to the famously majestic national park of California. The track would undoubtedly impress Newgrass Revival; featuring several instrumental interludes that showcases the collective talents and curious arrangements of Mason Porter. It’s a perfect note to conclude the EP on. Never trying too hard to play the quickest or loudest but instead focusing on interplay and the chemistry they’ve developed.
Heart Of The Mountains will be released on June 3rd through PledgeMusic.com. An anticipated release party will be held on the album’s release day at Pennsylvania’s Ardmore Music Hall. For those who can’t many those shows the band has a slough of New England dates announced throughout the summer. Get ahold of your copy of Heart Of The Mountains and discover for yourself.