The many, many lives of Shaun Mason’s Dumb Angel

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Dumb Angel’s album release party to go down at Amigos on March 28

Scenario #1: Mason is playing in a tiny Montreal cafe, acoustic guitar in hand. There is a pianist accompanying him. The crowd – Mile End to the max – is mostly concerned with their coffee, but applaud appreciatively when he finishes. After performing for nearly an hour, Mason is paid with a free lunch. It mostly consists of wilted greens and some crusty bread.

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If you wanted to trace the rise of Shaun Mason’s Dumb Angel, you would have to start at Blood Music, another Saskatoon group that made a furious noise before exploding into a million different directions. The group is on-again and off-again but produces some excellent songs. During this time, Mason moves to Montreal, to do a new thing, mostly.

“They probably broke up a couple of times while I was gone,” he laments. “But that was where I learned how to play and it made me want to do my own thing.”

Dumb Angel begins after Blood Music disbands for good. Mason puts together a line-up for a show in Saskatoon – that version of the band never plays together again.

After recording a few demos on his own, Mason releases Ghost Dance in 2006.

Scenario #2: Mason is attempting to break Dumb Angel into the South Korean music scene. Halfway around the world, he finds himself playing a couple of outdoor solo shows as part of a weekly arts and crafts sale/folk music concert put on by some university students. The first show he plays is in what he calls “the dirtiest, smokiest punk club in the history of the universe,” sharing a bill with the Korean equivalent of the MC5.

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Dumb Angel has been an ever-evolving manifestation of Mason, a folk-tinged singer-songwriter project that, at times, resembles anything but. The line-up is a manifestation of Mason’s home, wherever that may be at the time.

“The sound changes with who I am playing with, but I always have an idea what that sound should be,” says Mason.

During his time in Saskatoon, Mason puts together a line-up that consists of two acoustic guitars and three-way vocal harmonies. This incarnation releases an album entitled I Woke Up This Morning. Decidedly trance-like but rooted in slow, plodding folk plucking, the LP is best-served in quiet, introspective settings.

And then everything changes.

Moving to Montreal, Mason puts together a new line-up with members of The City Streets. Along with a couple of Saskatoon ex-pats, Mason records with Jace Lasek at Breakglass Studios, which produces the album Eight Moments of Spring.

“We only came together as a band after we recorded that album,” remembers Mason. “It was a very interesting time to be in Montreal. Very humbling.”

Spoiler alert: Mason moves again. This time to Saskatoon.

Scenario #3: On tour with Slow Down Molasses, Mason, along with band mates Patty Schmidt and Melissa Nygren are on stage in a theatre on Vancouver Island. There are few seats filled, but those who are in attendance are witness to an immensely powerful show backed by perfect three-part harmonies. Later, the owner of the venue opens a school bus outside, eliciting a literal parade of tiny dogs, who stream inside. The show is called a success. A couple of days later, the group plays a disastrous show at the Canmore Hotel – no fault of their own, of course. One man is mesmerized by the sounds. He later attempts unsuccessfully to buy drugs from the band.

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Broken Glass is Dumb Angel’s fourth album. It’s also the most ambitious.

Broken Glass is a lush foray into folk, rock and points in-between. Amidst deft instrumental flourishes – featuring some exquisite pedal steel playing courtesy of Luke Goetz – Mason’s dream-like vocals keep the songs anchored in a songwriter’s vision. The album has a decidedly collective-type feel, however. Keen sunshine pop sounds ebb and flow seamlessly into the spaced-out bliss of drone harmony. While his past work has always been consistently solid, Broken Glass sounds like the album that Mason was always trying to make.

Dumb Angel’s album release party goes down at Amigos on Saturday, March 28.

Scenario #4: Mason has returned to Saskatoon after spending the past few years in Montreal and northern Saskatchewan. The new line-up is likely the most cohesive bond he has unleashed. Together, the group begins to reacquaint themselves with the local scene, opening for the likes of Atlas Sound during the 2014 edition of MoSoFest. They start to tour, and crush audiences across Canada.

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Catch Dumb Angel on tour here:

April 3 – Toronto, ON – The Smiling Buddha
April 4 – Guelph, ON – DSTRCT
April 5 – Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo
April 7 – Quebec City, QC – Le Cercle
April 8 – Oshawa, ON – The Moustache Club
April 9 – Peterborough, ON – The Spill
April 10 – Wakefield, QC – Blacksheep Inn
April 11 – Hamilton, ON – Homegrown Hamilton
April 12 – Hamilton, ON – Cannon Coffee Co.
April 13 – London – APK
April 14 – Windsor – Phog Lounge