Adam Masterson beautifully ignites a fiery, sonic explosion of emotion and experience.
The New York City roots-rock singer-songwriter solders timeless, electrifying elements of early rock, soul, gospel, folk and country into his latest high-voltage, five-track EP, Delayed Fuse.
“Every song is like a gift so I’m very grateful when I finish a song. I’ve never really thought about what I want other people to take away. How we form a connection with a song is our own unique experience, and I try not to second guess that,” said Masterson, who’s originally from West London.
“But it’s been a pleasure to write the songs, and if there are people out there who will take these tunes to heart, then that will make me very happy.”
Masterson instantly jolts listeners with combustible tales of misfortune, parenthood, isolation, grit and regret against a sizzling, cinematic backdrop of spirited rootsy instrumentation. A fateful partnership with producer James Hallawell kindled a new, multi-genre musical flame for writing and recording Delayed Fuse in London.
“It was great finding James Hallawell because I felt he understood me and where I was coming from. Who you are as an artist is something you can never really explain because it’s something that has to be felt rather than explained. You need to find someone who’s equally as passionate in their love of music that they know instinctively the feeling you’re looking to create,” Masterson said.
“James has also toured the U.S. extensively working in the studio with a real hero of mine, Willie Mitchell, the great Memphis soul producer who produced Al Green and Syl Johnson, two of my all-time favorite vocalists, for his Hi record label. I know why Willie liked working with James because he has great feeling for soul organ, early rock ‘n’ roll, American country and the English hymnal style. All these styles feed into what inspires me as a musician, singer and writer.”
Bad Luck Avenue Walk
Masterson magically blends these eclectic styles throughout the blazing opening ditty, “Bad Luck Baby,” an upbeat ode to overdue luck akin to Jeff Lynne and Jakob Dylan. Swift, fuzzy electric guitars, pulsating drums, rhythmic hand claps and propulsive bass urge listeners to take initiative and start anew.
He encouragingly sings, “Running around in circles trying to find some light/Baby said she’s tired and she’s turning white/Cold after dark, cold after dark/Hold on/Pulling up the covers trying to hide her face/But the spooks are in the kitchen/There’s no time to waste/Run little girl, run little girl/Hold on/And if the stars align/The night won’t tell on you.”
Another mesmerizing Delayed Fuse track includes “Crazy Rain,” a melodic, nocturnal ballad about relishing the joys of parenthood and anticipating a child’s promising future. Serene, twangy electric guitars, soft drums, delicate cymbals, atmospheric synth, sparkling piano, tranquil acoustic strums and steady bass reflect a Bruce Springsteen-esque tonality soaked in a calming downpour.
As a lullaby to his son, Masterson peacefully sings, “I wrote a letter to the nighttime/But I won’t send it ‘til the sun shines/I gotta tell you for the last time/I won’t give up until your heart’s mine/All I need is the touch of your hand/I gotta make you understand/How it feels when a heart breaks/It’s a chance I gotta take.”
“Like all babies, he was into nursery rhymes and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ I love the way children adore these tunes and their words. They hook on to their simplicity. They capture the beauty of a baby in this great wide world of miracles and uncertainty perfectly. There’s a strange poignancy when you revisit these tunes as an adult and sing them for the first time as a parent,” Masterson said.
“You realize some part of yourself is buried deep down in these primal tunes, and that the world of experience teaches you only so much, but perhaps innocence and wonder reach further into the great unanswered questions of life.”
Masterson shifts from the comforts of family to the lonely, bustling streets of London on “Avenue Walk,” an introspective, dreamy anthem about finding a sense of purpose and internal peace amidst the surrounding chaos. Raw, ringing electric guitars, thumping drums, smooth bass and tender, vivid acoustic strums accompany listeners on a somber city stroll.
With vocal hints of John Mellencamp and Springsteen, Masterson reflects, “Lights flicker on the avenue/Cars rushing by/So many people all out having a good time/Passing friends at the gate/They wave and say hello/Come nightfall I love to go out walking/Every day all I think of baby is you/Every time I close my eyes/Every day all I think of baby is you/And so the feeling dies.”
Masterson also brings “Avenue Walk” to life in a stunning black and white video directed by wife Anna Gabriel (Peter Gabriel’s daughter). He steadily strolls throughout London streets as passersby remain immersed in their own thoughts, activities and experiences.
It’s the third video they’ve collaborated on for Delayed Fuse, which also includes videos for “Crazy Rain” on the drenched New York City streets and “Bad Luck Baby” during a live performance in a sparse old warehouse.
“It was very cold on the streets of New York, I remember that. Getting wet in NYC mid-December for the ‘look’ is not for the faint-hearted. For ‘Avenue Walk,’ I like the part when I bump into my mate Tommy outside the Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road. I thought Anna would have stopped shooting, but she kept rolling. I still haven’t gotten round to telling Tommy he’s in the video; I hope he doesn’t mind,” he said.
Throughout his latest release, Masterson keeps the Delayed Fuse fire alive with a white-hot band of collaborators who bring a “uniquely British tilt” to “American rock ‘n’ roll.” Brothers Jeremy Stacey (drums) and Paul Stacey (guitar), Charlie Jones (bass), David Rhodes (guitar), Peter Tickell (mandolin, violin) Glen Matlock (bass) and Hallawell (keys) provide soulful instrumentation to kindle Masterson’s classic sound.
“Each musician is an encyclopedia of music and knowledge. Each is a producer who played on or wrote hit records. I hadn’t met Jeremy or Paul before the session, and James hadn’t met Paul or Charlie, so it was pretty much getting straight down to tracking the songs with very little discussion or direction about an approach to take,” Masterson said.
“Perhaps we listened to an acoustic demo of me singing the song before we tracked. It was then a case of all playing being led by the song and trying to find a way in to unlocking the songs and giving them some new dimensions.”
New School Vintage Roots-Rock
Masterson started adding a new dimension to vintage roots-rock while growing up in West London and listening to The Kinks, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Springsteen. At age nine, he learned the flute, but later shifted to piano and guitar in his early/mid-teens.
By age 25, he ventured to New York City and noticed the abundance of sonic crossovers between the American and U.K. music scenes. In 2003, he released his full-length debut album, One Tale Too Many, which features shimmery acoustic folk rock akin to Van Morrison, Nick Drake and John Martyn.
Since releasing One Tale Too Many and Delayed Fuse, Masterson continues to write blazing new tracks for an upcoming full-length album in spite of the ongoing challenges of an international COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have enough material recorded for maybe two records now, but I’m lucky enough to be working with people who feel really positive about the songs and the direction, and they advised me to go for an EP first. I tracked three new songs before the last lockdown, and I do hope I can continue with this soon so there is some fresh material,” he said.
“But most of the songs from the EP will be on the album too because the EP is part of a bigger piece. Obviously times are uncertain with COVID on the loose, but I hope I can finish these tracks soon and release the full-length album.”