Life is a circle and it’s come back around full force for Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason, who began his legendary career nearly 50 years ago as co-founder of Traffic and now revisits those halcyon days with his latest touring concept/project, Traffic Jam.
Although Mason’s tenure with Traffic was relatively brief — running across two years and two albums, 1967’s Mr. Fantasy and half of 1968’s Traffic, as well as a half dozen performances in 1971, documented on the live Welcome to the Canteen — he was there for some of the most potent music ever made in that period and provided one of the band’s (and Mason’s) signature songs, “Feelin’ Alright.”
In the latter part of the ’60s and the dawn of the ’70s, Mason was like Rock’s Zelig, constantly finding himself at historical crossroads. Mason played acoustic 12-string on Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower,” provided un-credited guitar to The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, toured with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (their hit “Only You Know and I Know” was a Mason composition) and was initially intended to be the second guitarist for Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos.
Mason’s subsequent singer/songwriter career has been modestly successful, although “We Just Disagree” from 1977’s hot-selling Let It Flow nearly cracked the Top 10. His sophomore solo release was a duet album with Mama Cass Elliot, and full-lengths like Alone Together, Headkeeper and It’s Like You Never Left were staples of FM/college radio.
Although Mason took a 21-year break from the studio as a solo artist (from 1987’s Some Assembly Required to 2008’s excellent 26 Letters, 12 Notes), he was constantly touring, releasing three live albums in that period and also joining Fleetwood Mac in 1995 for their Time album, one of the most unfairly neglected works in their catalog.
Mason’s Traffic Jam ultimately touches on almost all of this history as he and his talented backing band take a look back at one of the most extraordinary careers in Rock history. Feelin’ alright? Dave Mason most certainly is, and so will everyone else by the time he’s through.
DAVE MASON'S TRAFFIC JAM plays at 20th Century Theater Thursday, Feb. 5. Find tickets/more info here .