Listening to Up to My Neck in It, it's hard to imagine Tucson's Mason Reed sitting still long enough to write a song.
Reed's new album bursts with vivid tales of boozy misadventures, tumultuous romances, sour luck and days defined by an unrelenting wanderlust. The raw-voiced Reed leans toward the whiskey-drinking outlaw side of the troubadour spectrum, but his songwriting is grounded in a brusquely poetic candor.
Reed's on-the-road lifestyle is best distilled in "Hard Living," a song about returning home to a "Dear John" letter from a woman who ran off with a new man, but says she'll still sing along to all his songs "about all them women who've done you wrong."
"It's hard living, hard luck/ It's hard getting back on the truck/ Three days home and I'm back on the road," sings Reed, the chorus rambling along with an infectious bounce that suggests a new song can be a fair trade for being ditched by a lover.
Up to My Neck in It was recorded in Brentwood, Tenn., by producer Stuart Mathis, who contributed guitar, pedal steel, banjo, violin, mandolin, drums and percussion.
The record swings from "Thrill a Minute," a stomping blues tune led by a nasty guitar lick, to "Guilty," a head-hanging apology, and covers plenty in between.
There's no telling how many barroom nights and how many highway miles are represented in the record's 10 songs. But as Reed's songs make clear, you can't chase dreams while sitting still.