Swinging sounds bring an ecclesiastical message delivered by the Plunders. Speak Easy is the second studio release from Richmond, Virginia couple, Mark and Suzan Mason, carrying listeners on a 10-track revival of harmonies and well-constructed guitar solos accompanied by the talented Ed Maina (horns) and Rick Krive (organ/piano).
The religious themes may not be for everyone, but Mark’s guitar talent can’t be denied. “The High Cost of Low Life Living,” brings that to light, introducing the 1980s blues sound consistently heard across most of the tracks. “I Get the Blues,” is next up, and although lyrically simplistic, Maina’s sax solo is anything but.
Familiar to the Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody,” the Plunders combine sweet sounds in “The Last Wave of Summer,” with beautifully written lyrics such as “Put your hand in my hand, your head on my chest. I’ll block the wind from the east and the west”.
“Fallen Angels Fly,” takes on a more country sound before “Mercy,” where Suzan’s vocals take a rough and raspy lead contrasting those of Mark’s church-rock sound.
Mark’s vocals seem to find a better place on the first acoustic track, “Valley of the Dammed”. “You Found Me There,” opens with an impressive fingerpicking sound leading into a fun, up-tempo number. “Remember This” has a southern rock feel to it, opening a bit like “Soulshine”. “Washed my Blues Away,” is heavily evangelical with a bit of a cheesy factor, though it features nice harmonica and another great guitar solo. “Your Stay,” uplifts and closes out the album.
Overall, this album offers noteworthy guitar and horns, and the purpose of the Plunders’ message is clear. Hardship and struggle are the building blocks of their music, just as their survival and ability to overcome the difficulties they face. Influenced by their experiences and passion for uplifting those facing hard times, sometimes quite literally. Rocky beginnings of substance abuse and incarceration led the pair on a dark spiral before centering themselves, marrying, and creating a life together. They refocused their lives and raised a family heavily rooted in music. Among their children is Billboard chart-topping artist, Matt Mason.
Turbulent beginnings do not always lead to an endlessly hopeless road. The Masons launched Life on the Verge in 2011, a non-profit bringing music and hope to prison populations. The Plunders have performed live for over 100,000 prison inmates in state penitentiaries across the United States. In response to the Covid-19 shutdown, they found a way to continue bringing morale into the prisons with the Good Infection Project, providing ministry videos, print media, and downloadable music to inmates.
The Review: 6.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– High Cost of Low Life Living
– I Get the Blues
– Fallen Angels Fly
– Valley of the Damned
The Big Hit
– Last Wave of Summer