Ben Mastwyk dials into an authentic country sound that honours both the heartfelt storytelling side of the tracks and the boot scootin’, honky tonk dance-floor. It’s a talent that few possess with many guilty parties falling into either serious introspection or ending up looking like cartoon cowboys.
Mastwyk wrote most of these songs in the US whilst dealing with a marriage breakup. You wouldn’t get a direct sense of that listening to the album though. He paints stories that skirt around and allude to the substantive core of the record. He’s not avoiding it, he’s just one of those storytellers that loves to create characters and situations, adventures and happenings in his songs. ‘MIA in LA’ tells the story of going to ground in the city of angels to avoid returning home to face the fractured remnants of the relationship. Mastwyk uses references to telephones and car trips to convey both literal and physical separation and distance and it works wonderfully, with not an ounce of pastiche in these wonderful songs, recorded with a roll call of some of the Melbourne’s finest players.
‘Quit You Comin’ Around’ channels Calexico, ‘Not Up For Makin’ Up’ conjures the ghost of Hank Williams and ‘Own Highway’ echoes the melodic genius of Gram Parsons. Those influences plus a dose of Springsteen and Pokey La Farge give an indication of the range and high standard that Mastwyk achieves as he rides this optimistic and accomplished Winning Streak.