Andy Mason with the Tall Boys, Coralee and the Townies
8 p.m. March 18 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $6. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.
Taking in a performance by local music vet Andy Mason can mean bearing witness to a generous sampler of sounds.
Catch him with Lexington faves The Swells and you will hear an integral part of a musical fabric that honors vintage jazz, blues and more. If he happens to be onstage with Big Maracas, the focus shifts to a more summery Brazilian vibe. And this goes without covering Mason's local history as one-third of the '90s power trio The Blueberries or his crafty solo piano shows staged during the early days of The Dame.
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Much of that versed background figures into Mason's new album, Off-Camera. There are light, tropical touches scattered about and even a jazzy flourish here and there. Mostly, though, it's an expert pop outing full of deftly played, articulately written and crisply produced songs. Imagine the cunning songcraft and vocal finesse of Squeeze's early-'80s records but with arrangements that favor a more traditional, almost parlor-style pop setting, and you have an idea of what Off-Camera aims for.
"I usually hear what kind of set-up I want for a song," Mason said. "Then when I get the basic tracks and everything, I start experimenting with ideas. It's like you perceive at first something that you want, but you're not sure if that's what the song is going to sound like when you record it."
Having recorded in the past at the home studios of Otto Helmuth, Mason's mate in the The Blueberries, Mason cut Off-Camera locally with Chico Fellini's Duane Lundy.
"I really wanted to see what ideas he could present. I've worked with Otto so much before with so many other things, so I wanted to get someone else's perspective on the music," Mason said. "I also wanted Duane's production sensibility available. I still kind of steered the whole thing, but I was definitely grateful to have his thinking available to me."
Off-Camera enlists the help of local blues-and-groove merchants The Tall Boys, as did Mason's 2008 album, Illumination. Similarly, the band will back up Mason at Friday night's record-release show at Cosmic Charlie's. That will help fortify the new tunes' rich pop flavor, but having The Tall Boys on tap also will assist in heightening the live profile of a local artist known far more as a band man than a solo act.
"Locally, I seem to do better with The Swells and the other bands. It's tougher to get a crowd for myself, although I've had some good opportunities lately to get in front of larger audiences."
That's an understatement and a half. In December, Mason opened Chris Isaak's sold-out concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
"Exactly," Mason said with a laugh. "That's what I was referring to. But like with any band, you have to be playing a lot to bring a crowd out. I haven't been doing a lot of that of late because I've been focusing so much on the other bands I'm in. But that's been fun, too. We've done a lot of gigs and built up a lot of business over the years. It's fun, and it's good for the bank account."
Those checking out Friday night's show should note that Mason will be up first on the bill. Coralee and the Townies will follow with a late-evening set.
Charles at Charlie's
Cosmic Charlie's remains on a serious roll this month. Saturday brings the return of soul music maestros The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker. A product of a long-neglected Nashville R&B scene in the '60s, Walker sings with the deep, full-throated ferocity of a young Wilson Pickett. He is, quite simply, not to be missed. (9 p.m. $15.)