I had a weird sense of pride wash over me last week – seeing Brent Mason inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame (with the rest of the Nashville Players – John Hobbs, Eddie Bayes Jr, Michael Rhodes and Paul Franklin) was literally a moment of “About bloody time people, what took you so long?”
You see, not only am I ferocious fan of the man’s playing, but also of the man himself and I personally have a lot to thank him for – so, seeing this recognition hit me right in the feels.
To cut a VERY long story short I owe my work with Brian over the last 10 years, in part, to Brent. It was Brent that Brian spoke to when he was scoping me out about redoing the company website in 2009. I had previously stalked Brent into submission on MySpace and the erupting platform of Facebook and I started one of the first ever Facebook fan pages for Brent in 2007 (so, as my brother would say, you make your own luck). I contacted Brent via MySpace and, from that moment on, both Brent and Julie were very helpful and provided me with loads of material… When Wampler was exploding around that time, Brian spoke to Brent about me, Brent said “Yeah, he’s OK” or something and that was that. Here I am, 10 years later, with about 30 pedal releases under my belt writing about Brent Mason.
All in all, over the last 12 or so years, I’ve got to know Brent and Julie really quite well – OK, so I’m not going to do that social media thing and declare that he’s my best friend and all that crap, but you know, over the years he’s proved himself as being a fine human, who just happens to plays the guitar inhumanly well.
First of all, let’s consider his career as a session musician, best guess right now is that he has appeared on about 1800 albums, in 2019 was inducted to the Musician’s Hall of Fame, in 2011 he was inducted to the Thumbpickers Hall of Fame, Grammy winner: 2009, CMA Musician Of The Year: 1997 & 1998, Nashville Guitarist Of The Year: 1995, ACM Guitarist Of The Year: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009 and Music Row Session Guitarist Of The Year: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010.
I first heard Brent in early 1998; playing wise I was stuck in a rut, and then I heard the album ‘Hot Wired’ which totally relit my fire for playing. It’s weird when I think about it, the five things I can remember with utmost clarity in my 46 years of walking this earth are Princess Diana dying, the moment I laid eyes on my wife, the birth of both of my children and hearing Brent that first time. So, as you can see, for me he’s quite the monumental player.
Over here in the UK country music isn’t very popular, it’s slowly growing, but it’s still pretty much classed as an ‘underground’ scene. We have no country radio stations and it was only recently that we got a country music station on satellite TV. It’s quite funny as we sometimes have it on in the background and I often play the game of “Yep, that’s Brent” when a track comes on. It makes me laugh and still surprises me to this day that he’s played on so much stuff. It is rare to hear more than 5 songs in a row before my ears prick up and I think “there he is”.
Most of all, I’d like to pay tribute to, not only the player, but to the man himself. Over the years we have talked a lot, I’ve done a lot of social media stuff for him and we’ve continued with the Hot Wired pedal (he sent me one in 2009 which was my first Wampler). As a thank you for all the work I did for the original fan page and website, he gave me one of the first PRS signature Brent Mason guitars that came off the production line in 2013 (it remains my #1 to this day) it landed right before my 40th birthday, which was amazing. However, nothing beats the video he sent me on that day in which he sang and played ‘Happy Birthday To You’ in the style of Jerry Reed, which remains the most treasured gift that I have ever received… This was made all the more special as, when I first started talking to him all those years ago (I was being a nuisance and asking about his influences) he said to me “You have to listen to Jerry Reed, and listen properly, you just have to”. Quite often Julie will email to catch up, or my wife will email her, one day I was rehearsing with the singer of the band I am in and I was having trouble getting my fingers around the solo (a Brent solo) so, as I was sat there, Lisa emailed Julie. Within 5 minutes she had spoken to Brent about it and there, in her inbox, was a pointer as to where I was going wrong with it…. And there was the time he gave me a one on one lesson over Skype to refine my country playing… I could go on for ever, but I don’t need to. He’s just a wonderful human being.
What can we say about Brent’s playing that hasn’t been said before, nothing really. All that is left for me to say is here are what I consider to be his finest moments, but this is purely a subjective list, and I would hope that yours is somewhat different to mine.
"Blowin’ Smoke" – the riff that floored me when I first heard it that introduced me to Brent
“I Don’t Even Know Your Name”, Alan Jackson – are these the finest improvised country solos ever recorded?
“When”, Shania Twain – one of those solos that makes you sit up and say “wut???”
"Nothing' To It" My favourite Brent lick of all time is in here, 1:35... blows me away
“First Rule Of Thumb” - showing his love and appreciation of, and being inspired by, Jerry Reed.
“Smokin’ Section” – Brent writing the stuff he truly loves
“Don’t Try This At Home” – it’s called that for a reason, to all of us shredders who use high gain, this is how it's done!
Congratulations Brent, never has an award been more deserved.