Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason to headline Belly Up Aspen
The Aspen Times
IF YOU GO …
Who: Dave Mason
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Thursday, March 7, 8 p.m.
How much: $55-$125
Dave Mason, the Traffic guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, has written and sung timeless classic rock songs like “Feelin’ Alright” and “We Just Disagree” that are so embedded in the culture that it’s hard to imagine there was a time they didn’t exist. He’s played with Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix.
Now 72, Mason is still at it. He returns to Belly Up Aspen tonight.
The Aspen show is part of Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” tour, an offshoot from his ongoing tour with guitarist Steve Cropper from Booker T. & the M.G.’s. An Aspen regular for decades, Mason noted that he’s played the Belly Up venue through its previous incarnations as the Double Diamond and the Paradise.
“Mostly I’m trying to put in as many of the classics that people want to hear, some Traffic stuff that I’ve got my own versions of and other stuff that are not my songs at all,” Mason said Tuesday from Interstate 70, where his tour bus was stuck in the avalanche debris closures.
He’s bringing a three-man band with him to Aspen and keeping alive his quintessential songs, some of which he wrote and recorded more than five decades ago — songs from his Traffic days and solo career like “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Only You And I Know” and “Every Woman.” Despite the passage of time and thousands of times he’s played some of them, as a consummate guitarist, he said, he makes it new every time.
“I’m essentially a guitar player, so I keep it fresh because nothing is ever the same when it comes to solo time,” he said. “And we love playing live.”
The legacy of “Feelin’ Alright,” he noted, is complicated. Mason wrote it in 1968 about his conflicted feelings about playing with Traffic — it originally had a question mark at the end — and recorded it with the band. It was popularized the next year in Joe Cocker’s iconic cover version, which became a good-time anthem.
“The song, essentially, is about not feeling too good,” he said with a laugh. “When I wrote it, it was mostly an exercise in writing something as simple as I could come up with — it’s just two chords.”
Mason has dabbled in just about every genre over the years, from traditional folk and pop country to psychedelic and Southern rock. His version of “All Along the Watchtower,” from 1974, has a jolt of wild R&B. A new version, recorded last year with Cropper, is bent into a hard-charging rock track with extended guitar solos.
“Maybe in some ways it’s been a detriment, because people love to tag and categorize,” he said. “But I love all kinds of music. And it’s the same with songs: I don’t look at things as being old songs or new songs. They’re either good or they’re not.”
He’s been playing guitar onstage since age 16 and still loves touring. But he hasn’t put out a new album since 2008’s “26 Letters, 12 Notes” as he’s become disillusioned with the digital-age recording industry.
“The state of things today, to me, is a total disaster,” he said. “One of the biggest things is radio. There is none. There’s nobody home. There are no DJs there playing stuff, saying ‘Check this out.’ I don’t put out stuff because it’s an exercise in futility.”
Asked about what advice he’d offer a 16-year-old musician today, Mason laughed.
“Music has become a backdrop for selling s—,” he said. “I guess go come up with a goofy YouTube video.”