New Act to Follow

The next great beach grooves are coming from a son of Steeltown

ADD A NEW NAME TO summer's soundtrack. The music of Hawaii-born, Pittsburgh-bred Mason Jennings has infiltrated the beach-party scene the way Jack Johnson's folk harmonies did ten years ago. That's no coincidence. Jennings released his sixth album, In the Ever, in May, on Johnson's Brushfire Records label, and he opens for the surf rocker at shows all summer. But beyond clever lyrics, full-bodied melodies, and the occasional surf session, Jennings is better compared to a musical icon of a different generation. Last year, filmmaker Todd Haynes tapped him to cover two Bob Dylan classics on the soundtrack of I'm Not There, the movie about the folk legend. "I hadn't heard Dylan until I was 20, but when I did, I felt like a kindred spirit with the guy," says Jennings. This spring, he accompanied Yvon Chouinard and surfing's Malloy brothers to southern Chile to write songs for Chris Malloy's 2009 feature travelogue, 180 Degrees South. (Think Motorcycle Diaries with gringos, surfboards, and climbing ropes.) While Chouinard scaled cliffs and the Malloys paddled standing river waves, Jennings stayed grounded. "I'm so not ready for that yet," says Jennings. "Those guys are hardcore." Next up: Jennings plays Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival before starting his own U.S. tour. Then, maybe some surfing lessons.

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