Pennsylvania’s Mason Porter is on a serious roll. In recent months, they’ve released a single based on the Edgar Allen Poe story The Tell Tale Heart, had a small batch craft beer named after them, and now have partnered with the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration to release a new EP, Heart Of the Mountains. While many sponsorships can be blatant advertisements, the way Mason Porter has taken the very essence of embracing nature and infused it into their songwriting and playing is both impressive and heartwarming. It’s hard to find a more universally agreed upon subject than the protection and importance of our many unspoiled parks and preserves, and the merging of that thought with the mountain music made by Mason Porter is inspired.Opening with the title track, Mason Porter kicks off the nature themed collection of tunes with a very visceral lyrical look at the enveloping sense of being far from civilization, lost in nature’s splendor. The driving mandolin, fiddle and drums give the song a galloping nature that invokes the gleeful spirit of running free. “See America,” the second track, talks of second chances and the boundless hope that is the American Dream. “Box Of Answers” features a meditative, lilting examination of choices, mistakes and the inability of modern distractions to fill the emotional needs that we all possess. To find life’s riddles, we fire have to put more thought into asking the right question. A much needed reminder that was very well put.Mason Porter takes this nature themed opportunity to deliver a spellbinding take on the old-as-the-hills song “Shenandoah.” It’s been adapted and reworked many times throughout its hundreds of years of existence, and Mason Porter continues in that long tradition by merging modern production and sensibilities with a timeless sound. The ethereal opening of “You And I” shows the depth of sound, variety of tempos and incredible potential of Mason Porter’s diverse array of instrumentation. Whispering and wistful, the romantic song touches not on the more familiar ground of finding or losing love but the less examined area of how to keep the flame alive.The closing tune, “Yosemite,” is a lengthy instrumental that allows the band to stretch out and find fresh ways to fill space in ways only they can. It’s a strong song and a telling indicator of the band’s development. You can literally hear the thought put into the spacing and pacing of the proceedings and it’s proof that proper planning gives bands the best chances to shine.Heart Of the Mountains is a strong statement from Mason Porter about the state of the band and its future, which is certainly as clear and wide open as the parks that the album celebrates. With the amount of material already released this year, it’s a safe bet we’re not done hearing from them, but for now, fans of modern bluegrass have six new songs of gold to treasure.
The tryouts continue for the Lakers. Coach Mike D’Antoni kept mixing and matching, and then all of a sudden, it clicked.Trying to gain traction for most of three quarters Sunday night, the Lakers gave a little taste of what was to come late in the third quarter, then took off and ran away from Detroit in a 114-99 win at Staples Center.While Jordan Hill picked up career highs with 24 points and 17 rebounds to build a foundation, the Lakers’ shooters then caught fire and buried the Pistons to end a two-game losing streak.It was Nick Young (19 points), it was Jodie Meeks (19 points), it was a little of Pau Gasol (12 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) and Wesley Johnson (13 points, two blocks) as the Lakers took over a game in which they had trailed by as many as nine points. “There were just so many guys who played well tonight,” D’Antoni said.And they did it with a little reunion of that bench mob that started the season so well.In the third quarter, the Lakers caught the Pistons three times but couldn’t pass them. Then in the final two minutes, Young hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Jordan Farmar closed the quarter with a baseline jumper, and the Lakers had a 79-71 lead.Then Hill took the court with reserves Xavier Henry, Young, Farmar and Sean Williams, and in fewer than two minutes, the lead was 14 points.The Lakers went on to shoot 62.5 percent in the final period. “It’s that group that was one of our best lineups,” D’Antoni said. “We finally kind of got back to it. I didn’t play Chris Kaman in the second half and that was kind of a casualty to it. I had to get back to the lineup that’s been best this year.”Hill, who worked his way into the starting lineup, also had a career-best 11 field goals and missed only four shots. “It’s his hustle, his energy, he’s put together some nice games,” D’Antoni said of Hill. “He’s just got to keep it right there, and he can. He’s got more confidence, more minutes, more everything.“He’s playing as hard as he can play, he’s got talent and he keeps getting better. His little jump hook is better. He hasn’t made his jump shot this year like he did last year … if he adds that like he already has, then yeah, I don’t see why he can’t do this. You never know. Anything close to this would be pretty doggone good.”Hill added five offensive rebounds in his 35 minutes.“We needed this,” he said. “We were on a losing streak and weren’t playing with a lot of energy lately. Tonight we did.“Everybody came out with a lot of energy. We don’t have Steve Nash or Kobe. But we have guys who know they need to step up. We’re all stepping up.”Almost lost in the shuffle was guard Steve Blake, who had nine points and a season-best 16 assists as he holds down the fort at point guard with Nash sidelined.And the Lakers (5-7) are improving as they all hold the fort until Kobe Bryant makes his return.“I think we’re getting better as a team,” D’Antoni said. “We have to play full out for 48 and then Kobe comes back and that identity changes. We just need to win as many as we can, get as good as we can.”With Meeks hitting 4 of his 7 3-point tries, the Lakers went 10 for 25 from distance. It all helped offset a pretty good shooting night from the Pistons (3-6).Guard Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 23 points and 14 assists. Josh Smith had 18 points and eight rebounds, and center Andre Drummond had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Forward Greg Monroe had 17 points and Rodney Stucky came off the bench to score 16. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error