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River Music Experience

Calendar of Events

Mason Jennings

Friday, November 10, 2017 8:00 PM
Redstone Room
$25 adv / $30 dos

Doors: 7pm / Show: 8pm
Opening Act: TBA
Age Restriction: 19+ (minors must be accompanied by parent or guardian)         
Genre: Folk

All tickets are general admission. Purchasing a ticket does not guarantee a seat.

Before setting to work on his latest album, at the advice of a friend, the Minnesota-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist holed up in the back room of his wood-nestled cabin studio with just a guitar, electric piano, bookshelf, notebook, tape recorder, and one 90-minute cassette—then wrote all winter long. Emerging with the notebook and tape full of about 30 new songs, Jennings decided to skip his standard approach of self-recording and called on producer Bo Ramsey (Greg Brown, The Pines, Iris DeMent), as well as a wish-list-plucked lineup of guest musicians that includes DeMent and Neil Young drummer Chad Cromwell. The result of those “dream collaborations” and his own hard-won inspiration, ‘Always Been’ proves to be Jennings’s most radiant and refined effort of his career.
Recorded at Minneapolis studio The Terrarium, Always Been’ builds on the rugged, acoustic-guitar-driven indie-folk of Jennings’s earlier work (from his 1998 self-titled debut to 2011’s highly acclaimed Minnesota) with sunnier melodies and more hi-fi sonics. While Jennings credits the album’s joyful spirit in part to “letting go and getting help from all these great musicians”—including Greg Brown upright-bassist Gordon Johnson, string virtuoso David Mansfield, singer/songwriter Pieta Brown, and several members of The Pines—at the heart of Always Been’ is an undeniable sense of the wonder he rediscovered during his winter-long writing session. “Staying open to the feeling of awe, the feeling of being moved by things—that’s the most important part of songwriting for me,” says Jennings. “When I’m able to stay in a childlike state that’s more about the heart than the head, that’s when the songs really come in.”
Lending its lyrics to the album’s title, the tender yet powerful “Patti and Robert” perfectly embodies that openheartedness. Sparked by Patti Smith’s 2010 memoir Just Kids and its account of the punk poet’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe—as well as an encounter at a 2011 Neil Young tribute at Carnegie Hall, where Smith pulled Jennings aside to praise his performance of “Red Sun”—the harmony-laden track pays quiet tribute to “love that will not break.”
Like “Patti and Robert,” the stirring and soulful “Wilderness” also grew from a “strange unexpected seed” planted during an encounter. With its warm strings and lilting guitar, “Wilderness” finds Jennings weaving in mournful images of blackened trees and fallen angels, but nonetheless pleading the listener to “embrace this life with all its scars.”
Although Jennings identifies “Wilderness” the centerpiece, the album takes on a far brighter mood with tracks like the playfully flirty, classically folky “Rainboots,” the rollicking and jamboree-ready “Witness,” and the album-closing, defiantly romantic “Just Try,” a ukulele-centered track. But even in its darker moments—such as “Number of the Sun,” a sorrowful serenade to a lost friend—’Always Been’ has a gently restorative power. And on songs such as the slow building but soaring “Instrument” (on which Jennings sings of longing to turn into a guitar, a mailbox, and a telescope, then confesses “I want to live my life a brand new way” in aching harmony with DeMent), melancholy and joy get tangled up together to gorgeous effect.
According to Jennings, the richness of texture and emotionalism on ‘Always Been’ has much to do with his newly slowed-down approach to songwriting. “The songwriting process had gotten so accelerated for me—I’d have an idea for a song and get so excited about it and immediately throw myself into recording,” he says. “With this album I took more time to focus and flesh everything out before I moved on.” And in carefully bringing his new songs to life, Jennings found that certain books, movies, and pieces of music were “lighting up” and volunteering themselves as inspiration. “It’s almost like I was being told, ‘Take a little bit of this, a little bit of that’—like there was a guided path and I was just following it,” says Jennings, listing Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, authors Louise Erdrich and Haruki Murakami, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach among the artists who informed his songwriting process.
When it came time to record, Jennings turned the reigns over to Ramsey in order to give full attention to delivering a stellar performance on vocals and guitar. “Working with Bo really elevated my singing and playing,” says Jennings. “He’s very quiet, but he’s got this heavy presence, and it was important for me to do a good job because I respect him so much.” After recording, which included such magic moments as Jennings teaching DeMent to play the ukulele, the songs were handed over for mixing to Jerry Boys (another of Jennings’s dream collaborators and the sonic master behind Buena Vista Social Club).
With the songwriting and recording of ‘Always Been’ so wholly charmed, Jennings says his main ambition is for the album to uplift its listeners. “Music’s always been very transformative for me. I remember hearing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as a kid and having it hit me in a really deep way,” he says. Noting that the medicinal quality of DeMent’s albums was a major influence on the mood of ‘Always Been,’ Jennings adds that he ultimately aims to create music with its own healing effect.  “I started making music because music saved my life when I was little—it was something I could go to and always have a feeling of connection, even when times were hard,” he says. “Above all else, I want to make sure I always remember that trying to give other people that sort of feeling is the major purpose behind what I’m doing.”

*Seating Disclaimer*

The Redstone Room at River Music Experience is a standing room only concert venue. All tickets are General Admission unless otherwise stated. For the comfort of our guests, a limited amount of seating is available on a first come first serve basis:
  • Reserved Tables: a limited number of tables are for sale in advance, sold through our ticketing service. You will need to add both your General Admission tickets AND your Reserved Tables to the cart for purchase. Reserve Tables come with 4 seats to a table. 
  • General Admission Tables: A number of tables are available when doors open. First come first serve.  
  • Disability: If you require handicap accessible seating, you will need to purchase your General Admission ticket first, and then call the box office to reserve up to 2 seats. Tables must be purchased separately.
*Ticket Disclaimer*

All tickets for RME events are sold via Eventbrite and all carry applicable transaction fees. Tickets can be purchased the day of event online, at the RME Box office during business hours, and at the door (subject to availability). All tickets purchased with credit cards and/or cash will be subject to all applicable service fees whether the purchase takes place online, over the phone, or at the RME box office. Ticket fees also still apply for admission at the door.


River Music Experience
129. N. Main Street
Davenport, IA 52801
Mon: 12pm - 5pm
Tues: 12pm - 6pm
Wed: 12pm - 5pm
Thurs: 12pm - 6pm
Fri: 12pm - 5pm
Sat: Closed
Sun: Closed

*Box Office hours may vary due to event schedules

Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?
Most shows in the Redstone Room are 19+, unless otherwise noted, but minors may attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
What are my transportation/parking options for getting to and from the event?
RME & The Redstone Room are in the heart of downtown Davenport, and accessible by public transportation or cabs & ride-share apps (Uber, Lyft). There is a paid parking garage right next to the RME that only costs a couple of dollars for an evening. When using the ramp, make sure that you prepay at the pay stations in the garage stairwell or on the Parkmobile app. Free street parking is available, but sometimes hard to find on concert nights.
How can I contact the organizer with any questions?
You may call the RME's box office at (563)326-1333 or email
What's the refund policy?
Purchased tickets are nonrefundable.