"While Steve Cropper, Felix Cavaliere and Anton Fig all stopped by the
Sofa King Badass sessions,
itís Mason Caseyís show from start to finish. His rough growl sounds like it was incubated in the Mississippi mud,
with searing harp work thatís pure Chicago, blazing with dark blue neon soul. With producer/guitarist/songwriter
John Tiven at the helm, Casey, who played harmonica with soul great Wilson Pickett, lays down 12 tracks that never
stray far from the basics, even as they explore new horizons. My Prayer
fuses Caseyís sanctified testifying with Tivenís Pentecostal Hammond
B3 and a reggae backbeat; Taxi Love
is a glowering sexual grind that features Caseyís sneering vocals and sly, sleazy harp lines; while Nine Times a Man sounds like Howliní Wolf
visiting Hi Records in the í70s."
"Mason Casey is a stone mason and an actor, having appeared in the recent
movie Get Smart, and the
TV series Jericho. Heís
also been wowing blues fans in New York City and Los Angeles since the early í90s with his rocked-up version of
soul/blues. After meeting producer/songwriter Jon Tiven, he began writing and demo-ing songs. Tiven eventually
used him as a vocalist and harmonica player on several records he was producing, including releases by Wilson Pickett
and Don Covay. Pickett was really impressed with Caseyís performance, comparing his vocals to those of Joe Cockerís.
Popa Chubby produced Casey for three releases on the Dixiefrog label from 2000 to 2003, but Tiven handled all the
production on Caseyís most recent release, Sofa King Badass (NorthernBlues Music).
"Collaborating on this disc is a cast that would make up a veritable Rock and Soul Hall of Fame roster. In
addition to Tiven and his wife Sally, who plays bass, the list includes Jonell Mosser, who contributes background
vocals, as well as Covay, Steve Cropper, who plays guitar on a couple of tracks, Chicago guitarist Jimmy Johnson,
Felix Cavaliere, and Wayne Jackson on trumpet. The session was recorded at Dan Pennís studio in Nashville, with
Penn serving as one of the engineers.
"Casey is a highly original songwriter and teams up with Tiven, Cropper, Johnson, and Cavaliere on 11 of the
14 songs. Two songs, Taxi Love
and Nine Times A Man,
both co-written by the Tivens, appeared respectively on Pickettís late í90s comeback album, Itís Harder Now and
Coveyís Adlib CD, and Blue Hair Woman
is a composition co-written by the Tivens and Al Franken from their mid í80s foray into music (The Tom Davis Experience
featuring Al Franken). Wisely, Casey doesnít try to emulate Pickettís tempestuous style, settling into his own
gruff, but soulful style, which works to perfection, especially on Nine
Times A Man, which also features a vocal spot by Covay.
"The originals are also impressive, ranging from rockers like You
Make It Hard, Chesterfield
County Jail, the wild title track, and It
Takes A Lotta Love, to deep funky soul like Let
Me In, Take Me To The
Airport, and Done Crying, to straight blues cuts like Thatís My
"Sofa King Badass,
like any release that has Jon Tivenís fingerprints on it, is a robust mixture of rock, soul, and blues that will
please fans of all three styles. Youíll be hearing more of Mason Casey in the future. Count on it."
"Mason Casey hails from upstate New York and is now resides in Holland.
Back in the 90s, he worked at several NYC clubs and drew the attention of Popa Chubby, who seldom noticed harmonica
players. But Casey was too good to be ignored, so PC helped him produce a demo and that created a snowball effect
that leads us to Badass Sofa King.
"Fred Litwin of Northernblues Records heard via the grapevine Casey was something special, but I can only
imagine his reaction when he realized the full attributes he brought to the table. Besides being a formidable harp
player, featured on Wilson Pickettís last release before his passing, Casey voice sounds like itís been aged in
old bourbon. That puts him in line with an estimable pedigree harking back to Otis Redding, Don Covay, Wilson Pickett,
Bobby Womack and Eddie Hinton, whom Casey is especially reminiscent of.
"BSK is chockfull of mainly funky grooves and the level of song-writing is another story completely. Itís
what gives this collection its cohesiveness and satisfaction. Each track provides glimpses into the passions and
travails shaping the artist. He co-wrote 12 of the 14 tracks along with producer Jon Tiven, who also produced Wilson
Pickettís very last album. The legendary Wicked Pickett and everyone else was blown away by MCís earthy harp and
that lasting impression made it easy for Tiven to rope in such extra-special guests like Don Covay, Jimmy Johnson,
Felix Cavaliere and Steve Cropper, to name but a few.
"Thereís an unflinching honesty that has to be heard to be appreciated on BSK and that impression resonates
from the get-go with You Make It Hard,
a no-nonsense introduction to the hard-core ways of Casey. Heís into his music in a profound way and his gravelly
pipes propel everything onward and upward. Everything throbs with maximum intensity, whether itís deals with the
upbeat or low-down side of life.
"Take Me To The Airport
contains lots of high drama. You sense desperation in a voice thatís been wounded severely as his pride. Donít End Our Love cuts like a knife, while
It Takes A Lotta Love
would be a huge hit if they still played good music on commercial radio. Thatís
My Heart has a definite Fats Domino vibe to it, but with a darker
edge, while Nine Times A Man
is a smoking cover of the Wilson Pickett classic. Casey really nails this one and that distant voice is the background
urging him on is none other than Don Covay.
"As for the title track, Iíd like to give you the lowdown on it, but caution is the better sense of valor.
But Iíll give you the lowdown on the entire CD: I grade it a solid A."
"There are a lot of good blues harmonica players out there.
"But there arenít that many who can put down that harmonica, pick up the microphone and blow you away as a
singer as well.
"Mason Casey can.
"Casey, a native of New York who now calls California home, is both an A-team harmonica player and a first-class
blues belter whose soulful, gritty vocals suggest a cross between John Lee Hooker and Otis Redding.
"Sofa King Badass,
Caseyís first album for the Toronto-based NorthernBlues label, showcases his talents in both departments to the
proverbial 'T' with a mix of full-bodied blues, spiked to the max with some Hammond B-3, some great horn work and
Jonell Moserís backing vocals.
"With the right exposure - which should be forthcoming considering the industry buzz - this record should
have no problem finding an audience on this side of the Atlantic.
"Casey is already a force to be reckoned with in Europe where he has recorded three albums for Franceís DixieFrog
label under the watchful eye of American blues guitarist Poppa Chubby.
"Casey has also earned a good deal of recognition as a session player, playing on records for legendary soul
artists Wilson Pickett and Don 'Dark End of the Street' Covay. Covay returns the favour on this album, making an
appearance on Nine Times a Man.
"And Covay is not the only name to appear on the record. Ace guitar players Steve Cropper and Jimmy Johnson,
drummer Anton Fig and keyboard player Felix Cavaliere of Young Rascals fame also added muscle to this set.
"In addition to showcasing his work as both a singer and a harmonica player, this record shows Casey as being
more than able as a songwriter.
"He co-wrote almost every track on this badass blues record. His primary collaborator was producer Jon Tiven,
a multi-instrumentalist who has also produced records for B.B. King and Wilson Pickett. But he also collaborated
with Covay, Cropper and Johnson.
"Choice cuts on this set include Chesterfield County Jail, It Takes a Lottaí Love, Thatís My Heart,
Nine Times a Man and the title track.
"In the for what itís worth department, you may have heard Caseyís name before, but in another idiom. Heís
also a working actor, with roles in the film Get Smart and on the television show Jericho."
The Guardian, Charlottetown
August 28, 2007
"I have heard the future of the blues, and itís name is Mason Casey.
Okay, Jon Landau Iím not, but that doesnít mean Caseyís debut Northern Blues disc isnít the finest blues thing
heard all summer.
"How often does a blues album come out of nowhere to captivate with a new approach, a new sound? Sometimes
itís like the new wave-blues of The Inmates circa 1979 (Nine Time A
Man and You Make It Hard), and other times itís lazy, Ďsittiní in the sun, scratchiní your belly and drinking
a beerí blues (Let Me In).
"Sometimes itís guys in bad circumstances (Chesterfield County
Jail), declariní their love and lust (Blue
Hair Woman) and then itís about starting all over again (Done Crying) and doing some testifying
"Sofa King Badass
is not going to change the world, but it sure is fun! Hot harp, great vocals, reviní guitars, and deep grooves
- Mason Casey seemingly has it all."
"Marvin Gaye and Barry White were rare soul singers who could easily
melt female fans into puddles of desire. After Gaye died, only White possessed such skill; with his passing in
2003, it seemed like proper seduction through song would never again be possible. Even though Whiteís songs will
forever be associated with 1970s cheesiness like tight plaid pants, odd facial hair and red shag carpeting, the
man knew how to croon. Itís fortunate then that Mason Casey, with his fantastic new album Sofa
King Badass, promises to pick up where White left off, all while delivering
some pretty sweet blues.
"With that voice and that harmonica, whatís not to like? Every song is carefully crafted to offer something
unique: Nine Times a Man
has some interesting call-and-response action going on, Donít End our
Love will make you wanna say 'bow chicka wow wow,' and Sofa King Badass and Taxi
Love have some funky disco grooves going down. Casey, who also played
harmonica on the late Wilson Pickettís last record, has clearly incorporated some of Pickettís soul, funk, and
R&B influences into his own music, and it sounds awesome.
Sofa King Badass is not entirely a soul / funky blues compilation; some of the songs, such as You
Make it Hard and Thatís
My Heart, swing to a toe-tapping jump beat. And if the album hasnít
provided enough variety by that point, My Prayer
is, well, a prayer.
"Back to the seduction through song. In Let Me In, Caseyís begging an ex to take him back. Donít
End Our Love runs along the same lines. He delivers his pleas in such
a low, smooth and sexy voice that it would be impossible for this former lover not to consider his request, even
if only for a second. More than likely, the person would reply with 'bow chicka wow wow.'"
The Gateway, University of Alberta
September 10, 2007
Good old-fashioned soul music
"Few things give BlueNotes more pleasure than referring to himself in the third person, but one of them is
finding great fresh new music, and getting to tell you about it.
"This time it's an album by a soul singer and harpist named Mason Casey ("Sofa
King Badass," NorthernBlues Music).
"What I like best about it is that it's music that's not trying hard to be something that it's not. It's fine
and simple old-fashioned soul -- blue-eyed soul, to be sure, but hey, you got to dance with the soul that brung
"Casey, who has written or co-written most of these tracks, has an ear for that great old southern soul music
and gritty pipes to match, all wrapped up in smoky Nashville arrangements. The result is a Wilson-Pickett groove
without Wilson, but that still grabs at your gut in the same satisfying way.
"He plays harp the same way he sings -- deep feeling and even more soul.
"Most of the music here is first-rate; I'm partial to the uptempo tracks as compared to the ballads. But that's
just me. Here's one of my favorite tracks: That's My Heart.
"One little note: The cover art makes him look a little like 'The Wiz' salesman from an old Seinfeld episode,
and the title -- well, let's just say it's a play on words -- thing kapow did.
"One more note: One of the tracks, Blue-Haired Woman, a mature but lusty love song, is partly credited to Al Franken. Spelled just like
the comedian, author and now senatorial candidate from Minnesota, Al Franken. Is that possible? Well, I've sent
his campaign an e-mail asking if this Al Franken is their Al Franken. I would have assumed he was too busy trying
to save life as we know it to write soul music...but you never know. Maybe he'll answer."
September 4, 2007
"Mason Casey is a passionate singer, a skilled harmonica player, and
a worthy songwriter who co-wrote most of the group originals on his recent CD. Sometimes the words are not overly
subtle (as on "You Make It Hard"),
but they usually contain some wit, plenty of feeling, and occasional insight. Casey's band is excellent in its
supportive role and the overall music is a good example of the rock side of the blues. With producer Jon Tiven
also co-writing many of the songs and alternating between most of the key instruments, Mason Casey was in good
company for this spirited Nashville blues set."
All Music Guide
"The tongue-in-cheek hillbilly title of this record deserves a star on
it's own. Plus it's got producer Jon Tiven, guest turns by Steve Cropper, Wayne Jackson and Don Covay going for
it. Casey is a gruff, soulful singer striking me as a better-voiced Tom Waits. That's right up Tiven's alley, having
produced Wilson Pickett and currently Ellis Hooks. He and Casey co-wrote ten of the 14 tracks here and Tiven fans
get what they want. 100% organic soul/blues."