Blood of Man
[Rating: 3 stars]
On previous CDs, Mason Jennings fit label boss Jack Johnson’s stereotype of the unplugged folkie, playing meditative songs about faith and love–but on his eighth album, Jennings plugs in, sings a bunch of songs about doubt and fear, and makes his most electric record yet. “Lights go down,” he sings on the opening “City of Ghosts,” “and there ain’t nobody there to love me.” With echo, reverb and amplified instruments (all played by Jennings) pulling him along, the 34-year-old singer/songwriter examines the corners on Blood of Man, trying to uncover the mysteries of life and death. He even gets a bit metaphysical on the stripped-down “Tourist”: “Is who you are now who you wanna be now?/Or are you someone you don’t wanna be?/Is what you wanted really wanted you wanted?/Or is it nothing, like you dreamed?” Still, Jennings hasn’t totally abandoned the slice-of-life storytelling that drives his best work. “Pittsburgh” follows a teen from all-night parties to a hospital suicide wing. And the revenge tale “Black Wind Blowing” starts with two dead bodies before taking an even more menacing turn. There are some mighty demons haunting Jennings on Blood of Man. Rocking out is one way to exorcise them.