Mason Dixon
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Mason Dixon

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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Soft and Swollen Summer"

A couple of years ago, Mike Robertson's old band Miracle Of 86 was performing at a Jersey Beat benefit at Luxx, and played an early version of the song that would become "Beat Me In A Race" on this demo. Robertson was the lead guitarist and sideman of Miracle Of 86, the guy who'd get to sing one song per set; Kevin Devine, the red-headed lead singer, got most of the attention in that band. But I remember Tris McCall leaning over to me after "Beat Me In A Race," pointing to Robertson, and saying, "That's the guy to watch in this band." While Kevin's solo career has been nothing to sneeze at, Mason Dixon has certainly vindicated Tris' prediction; over the last few years, the group has solidified from Robertson's solo project into a confident and powerful band that's become one of my favorites. Devine enchants his audiences with a boyish Conor Oberst-like quavering intensity; Robertson, as frontman of Mason Dixon, sings in a restrained baritone, with a commanding presence that's part Johnny Cash, part Springsteen's Nebraska. By drawing from blues and folk tropes almost exclusively, Robertson's songwriting also seems grounded in something that's both fresh and traditional. This new demo (somebody sign this band already and get a full-length out!) features "Soft & Swollen Summer," an innocent, romantic love song; the aforementioned "Beat Me In A Race," a deliciously self-deprecating pop tune in which Robertson competes with another potential beau by making a fool of himself (spieling off state capitals and getting them all wrong, bragging about his guitar prowess with a super-simple C-F-G chord progression.) "Oh, Somethin" is a showcase for keyboardist Lindsay Sullivan, whose cuddly female vocals add a warm counterpoint to Robertson's steely presence. "You Can't Get There From Here" finishes things up with a bare-bones arrangement that showcases Robertson's lyrical ingenuity, Lindsay's ingratiating harmony vocals, and the band's penchant for straightforward pop songs. Remember the name and check this band out before they're too famous to see in small clubs anymore.

Jim Testa, Jersey Beat - Jersey Beat


Soft and Swollen Summer, EP, 2005


Feeling a bit camera shy


     Mason Dixon is a New York-based modernist rock/folk/blues outfit headed up by former Miracle of 86 guitarist/vocalist Mike Robertson.  Robertson’s striking songs marry the wide-eyed exuberance of early Springsteen, the bare boned grit of Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Johnson, the wry sense of humor of mid-period Dylan, and the infectious New Wave of the Cars with sophistication, control, and confidence.  And while Robertson is name checking a daunting list of A-class influence, the material stands firmly on its own legs, a testament to his talent and taste.
     After Robertson’s former band, Miracle of 86, dissolved in the fall of 2003, he sharpened his focus and went to work. In February of 2004, Miika Grady, an experienced rock bass player, and Mike Fadem, a formally trained jazz drummer, joined the band. After adding Ryan Smith (of The Silent League) on keyboards they transformed Mason Dixon into a strong, efficient four piece with a unique attention to song structure and arrangement.  
     Mason Dixon impress by contributing something singular and new to something traditional and old – they’re 20something urban white folks who sing their honest blues like that’s the most normal thing in the world.  That self-aware commitment sets them apart from the recycled revivalist kitsch that weighs down a lot of roots-influenced music nowadays – they’re smart enough to know that substance is style and that the songs’ll set you free.