The Candidate

Two years after topping polls as a live local favorite, Mason Jennings recasts his tunes in a political key

I love Birds Fly Away, complete with its I-just-read-a-book-about-the-Black Panthers song ("Black Panther") and its U2-worthy (read: dubious) abstract meditation on MLK (the chorus of "Dr. King" is an elongated "A-la-ba-ma") and a fake traditional that feels both traditional and fake ("Duluth"). Paradoxically, all this narrowly skirts parody, thanks to that weird, indeed comic, Sandleresque quality. And there's nothing wrong with waxing political: I talk about global empire and the media being the mouthpiece of the capitalists all the time. And...wait a minute. I don't, really. No one does, even when they hold these truths to be self-evident. Just like they never say I love you, and save the praise-God stuff for Sundays. Maybe Mason Jennings is a songwriter first after all.

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