Willy Mason: Newport Folk 2008

At 24, Willy Mason already sounds like a withered man. Accompanied by a musical-saw player and members of his family on stage, he opened Sunday's Newport Folk Festival in a somber mood. But a sweet moment came when Mason invited his parents — local to the area — on stage and lightened up the set just before noon.

Mason has recorded for the label owned by indie-rock icon Conor Oberst. It's a perfect fit, given that his songs recall the downer jams of Neil Young and Bright Eyes. Growing up on the folk music of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Mason writes music with hints of both, but he modernizes it with elements of '90s rock.

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