17-year-old singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mason Summit is no "Absentee" and he doesn't phone it in either. Summit has been writing songs since the age of 11 as a way of dealing with the death of his actor/musician father Christopher Allport. He has been playing in venues in L.A. since he was 13 and performed at his first open-mic night at the age of 9. His debut disc, Absentee, has an official release date of March 25. Summit takes the lead on guitar, organ, dulcimer, harmonica, vibes and pan flute.
On this initial audio offering Summit is backed by some of the best in the city of angels including: bassist Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks, The Weirdos), drummer Shawn Nourse (I See Hawks in LA, Dwight Yoakam), percussionist Al Keith (Bonedaddys, Sugar Ray), guitarist John Groover McDuffie (Rita Coolidge), Andrew Allport on guitar and backing vocals and Lynn Coulter (Rita Coolidge, Carole King) on tambourine.
The 12-track release opens on “What We’ll Become”. This introduces an audience to his alt-pop style work and even scrapes catchy. “Fools In April” follows and is an early favorite of some critics. “Better Half” is the next number but it’s perhaps too quickly forgotten once Summit starts singing the country-influenced “Walk on Water”.
“Answer Me” is another early favorite of some of the critics and continues to demonstrate Summit’s songwriting abilities. He moves in a different direction with “Jésus Behind the Ice Cream Cart” has a touch of newer punk intensity and Summit freely admits “is a product of my middle-school Green Day phase.” This song, he says, is “not based on a true event, many of the songs are . . . especially the teenaged angst-ridden love songs”
The seventh selection is “Don’t Want That”. Again, this is another track that might be a bit overlooked because of placement. The titular track is perhaps the strongest and comes in with a wave of angry emotion over the death of his dad.
Summit confirms saying: “The title track deals with my emotions, particularly anger, after my father’s death in 2008. I had my brother, Andrew Allport, come in and read poetry on the fadeout of ‘Absentee’ and he also plays the guitar solo.” Summit dedicates Absentee to the memory of his father.
“I’ve Never Surfed” is a tuneful tip of the hat to some of Summit’s favorites. He agrees that it is “an homage to The Beach Boys and The Rascals, two of my favorite ‘60s groups.” It certainly has a familiar ring to it as do many of his tracks.
“In Orbit” is on next in this collection of tracks obviously taken from different moments in his life. It is followed by one of the best albeit overlooked cuts “Let Me Know” which further demonstrates his his youthful perspective. The closing cut is “Drain” which works well enough as the album’s end-note.
Absentee is obviously influenced by the likes of Elvis Costello, Elliot Smith and Buddy Holly among others previously mentioned. Summit makes no bones about this and even admits to listening to some of his favorites while working on the CD. The influences are not overwhelming and that makes a big difference.
Summit’s songs are familiar yet not derivative. The fact that he wrote them over a significant period of time not only easily exhibits different moments in his life but also allows the careful listener to notice both moods and perhaps even a little growth. Summit is using his songs to share and communicate pieces of his personal life.
While Summit is far from being able to “Walk on Water” he is certainly worth a listen. He might become big one day and if you have never heard Absentee you’ll have no real clue about his rockin’ roots and, well, you “Don’t Want That”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.