I have a soft spot for session players and sidemen. I’ve never been inclined to front a band, but I enjoy backing up a good leader on stage or in the studio. Country pickers know that Brent Mason is easily one of the most prolifically recorded guitarists in Nashville, with thousands of recordings and commercials to his credit, in addition to a slew of CMA Awards and Grammy nods. Hard copies of his out-of-print debut solo album, Hot Wired, fetch a pretty penny on the used market. Fortunately, the tracks were recently (though quietly) re-released in digital form, making Hot Wired accessible to the masses again.
Mason’s penchant for smooth jazz is arguably a little over-represented on the record, with tracks like “Cayman Moon” and “Blue Water Girl” sounding a bit dated in 2013. However, his virtuosic chicken picking on the title track and western swing-inspired tunes like “Sugarfoot Rag” and “Swing with a Sting” more than compensate. Listeners should also check out Smokin’ Section, a collection of tracks recorded with brother Randy in 2006. The album leans a little more decidedly toward country music, and the jazz tracks swing harder. Both albums are essential listening for aspiring masters of the Telecaster.
Interestingly, Paul Reed Smith recently picked up Brent as an endorser, releasing a bolt-on signature model. He had previously been affiliated with Valley Arts Guitars, endorsing a signature instrument inspired by Mason’s famous — and extensively modded — 1968 Telecaster. With a minibucker in the neck, strat pickup in the middle, and a B-Bender for pedal steel sounds, his #1 is the ultimate country session guitar. I’m sure Brent sounds like Brent on the new PRS, but I’m still partial to his classic Tele and Twin combo, featured on cuts like Alan Jackson’s 1993 hit “Mercury Blues” (the early Alan Jackson albums provide a great introduction to Mason’s output as a sideman).
Speaking of that ’68, check out this great vid of Brent and Randy tearing it up on the jazz standard “Cherokee”: