Twin Cities song man Mason Jennings has racked up a lot of big-name fellow musicians as fans over the years, including Jack Johnson and Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock. Now, he’s gone and made a full album with a core member of one of rock’s biggest acts.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard has teamed up with Jennings in Painted Shield, a quartet also featuring ex-PJ and new Bob Dylan drummer Matt Chamberlain along with Seattle area singer/keyboardist Brittany Davis. They have an album coming Nov. 27 and debuted the first song from it Wednesday, a obliquely political dirge called “I Am Your Country” (posted below).
This wasn’t the first time Jennings and Gossard worked together. They also released a single back in 2014 and finally got around to recording again at a gradual pace from their respective homes two years ago.
In Rolling Stone’s preview of the project, Gossard explained that he and Jennings finished the album this spring once the coronavirus canceled all of Pearl Jam’s tour dates behind its comeback-quality album “Gigaton.”
“I’ve always got way too many irons in the fire,” the guitarist said.
“It’s normal for me to have about 500 different items in a Dropbox file, bouncing around. And the last three months of the Pearl Jam record was really sort of Eddie [Vedder] going back in and taking a bunch of stuff and trying to focus it. ... He did an incredible job with that, so I was off the hook a little bit there toward the end of that record, so I had some time.”
Jennings explained how working with Gossard long-distance was a welcome contrast from his often live-performed solo albums, such as his last one “Songs From When We Met,” which featured members of the Pines as backers.
“It was pretty different for me because I’m used to having some sort of physical instrument in the room with me,” he told Rolling Stone. “I usually have an acoustic guitar against my chest when I’m writing or a piano or something. I did a lot of cranking these songs in the car super, super loud so that I could be inside of them.”
Chamberlain also had a hand in some of the songwriting. Fans saw the drummer on tour for the first time with Bob Dylan last year. Turns out, he’s not the only drummer on the Painted Shield’s record to have already performed with a Minnesotan songwriter: Josh Freese, who helped fuel the Replacements’ 2013-2016 “reunion” tour, also played on three of the album’s tracks.
“Painted Shield” is now available for pre-order. Gossard said they hope to tour to promote it once it’s safe again, although he noted that Chamberlain’s commitment to Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour could make that problematic.
“We can just follow Bob around,” he told Rolling Stone.
Here’s hoping he wasn’t kidding.