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Cinematic Turn

by Cynthia G. Mason

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    Lovely cover art by Amy Morrissey

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You came along early morning a telltale song a thousand ways to get it wrong from that first cry the cut of cloth the lullaby you drew a crowd late morning and we both vowed a thousand times as if to hear it out loud in that first light could keep up our morale all night there are doubts that can only be under lock and key in the heart’s armory anyone who is quick to deny it is lying and there’s trouble within and there’s trouble without but on love we don’t harbor a single doubt we won’t take The Drive Tuesday morning we’ll do 25 a thousand horns serenading us as we arrive and then you’ll wake the care in each new call we make we couldn’t tell day from evening as the sun fell it seemed a thousand hours ago everyone wishing us well and now here we are from dawning day to evening star
Once when they couldn’t predict if the city would survive you were still a turnpike counties away the elders still alive our mothers younger than we are now they still knew everything as children we took pains to memorize all the songs they didn’t sing once when we couldn’t see it yet long before that corner’s decline back when we would still pledge our allegiance before you bound your fate to mine the flight path the dog-eared atlas torn eerily the same in places it was a dozen years before I’d ever heard your name once when we’d still never recognize one another on the street we’d covered the grid of the city by then all the ways we didn’t meet each movement every other whim can lead you to the same few places like a cinematic turn shot by shot frame by frame
18th Street 03:18
You knew you’d look up that address then pack up your life in a flash September it once was a question now heat and the cool autumn clash a hush can fall leave you unsteady who will speak for that window won’t last you thought it out little by little but now it’s got to be clever and fast now you’re heading out on the words and an angle that you couldn’t consider before there were keys and coins and the liquor store boxes a decade caught ceiling to floor you were going gone before you got to the door you knew you’d recall only later a handful of words left unsaid and the version you’d tell with the punch line was the only one left in your head
Sons will gather round sit for every breath start for any sound any harbinger of death you will flinch then fret over what went wrong he split to forget but now it won’t be long I think you both know he got here just in time to let her go so he won’t come unwound and you won’t kneel to pray but that history is bound to still get in the way by fire by flood by beast a peaceful passing is rare one more trip back East is more than he can bear but I think you both know he got here just in time to let her go we will sense our kin and town in the twists and turns we take on the way up and way down in the roots of each mistake we’re in this diner booth coffee is getting cold trading stories from our youth all the ones he never told and I think you both know he got here just in time to let her go
It was time to give into the things I gave up we turned it over and over the fruit on the vine every storm and drought’s end the neglect and its power the reasons for that there were so many then now I can’t think of one so I’m making my way to where the greener things grew to where the damage was done I’ve got a hand in the dirt I’ve got an eye on the sun there’s a way to dig into the things I left out and never fully recover hindsight’s appeal is it looks different now every weed turns to flower the deadlines I set they were menacing then I couldn’t meet one so I’m looking at what met an unnatural end and how the work came undone I’ve got a hand in the dirt I’ve got an eye on the sun now I’m kicking at fragments and holding up figments it’s late but I’ve only begun hands in the dirt eyes on the sun in the end I could see there were things I put off for what felt like forever and time marching on with her arrogant stride left a half-painted marker the values and weights immutable then now I’m lifting each one I’m taking it all I’m going to start up again I’m going to get something done


Cynthia writes about sons grieving their mother, a new parent’s feelings of terror and joy, the near-miss of almost not meeting someone monumental in your life, the ambivalence and dread that come with certain obligations. Small moments loom large and hit hard. Magnet Magazine called her music “as vivid, evocative and narratively compelling as a film.” Philebrity likened her music's “ageless directness” to "a hypnotic sesh watching old Super 8 movies of people you don’t know.”

Cynthia’s voice has been described as a little broken, plainspoken, and hushed, while her songs have been called both “confessional” and “detached,” sometimes in the very same review. (Performing Songwriter Magazine) She admits that while her lyrics come from a very personal place, they are left open enough so that the listener can relate to them in his or her own way.

A sense of place is also central to Cynthia’s music. And for her, that place is the city of Philadelphia, with its beauty, melancholy, and grit. You can hear it in “Telltale Song,” with the worry of driving through the city for that first ride home from the hospital with a newborn. It’s in her single “What Forgiveness Will Allow” when she looks for a sign in the flickering lights across the Schuylkill River. “18th Street” documents her departure from a beloved apartment, and the streets of Philadelphia are featured on the home-recorded Quitter’s Claim, horns honking on the corner. A bus enters a break between verses. The 34 trolley and West Philadelphia make an appearance in her earlier albums.

Born in West Philadelphia, Cynthia began studying classical guitar when she was seven. She joined her first band when she was fifteen and in the coming years, Cynthia spent most of her free time at all-ages punk and indie rock shows around Philly. But she continued to have a strong attachment to her acoustic guitar and started developing droning fingerpicked patterns, influenced by what she was hearing on the electric.

At the turn of the century, Cynthia met members of the band Need New Body and soon found herself playing with musicians Larry D. Brown, Chris Reggiani, and Christopher Sean Powell. The Philadelphia City Paper’s observation at the time: “You can just see the standard press blurb: Acoustic guitar-strummin’ songstress joins forces with three-fifths of an art-jazz-rock freak-out troupe. But that’s a bit reductive when it comes to this group. Why accentuate polarities when they make music that sounds so natural?” Cynthia collaborated on several recordings with Powell, most recently on Cinematic Turn, which they recorded at Miner Street Recordings with producer Brian McTear. She has also made several recordings with Brown, including the stark and intimate full-length album Quitters Claim, which was released on the High Two label, as well as the single “What Forgiveness Will Allow.” Cynthia contributed to a Muscle Shoals tribute compilation where she covered Duane Allman’s “Please Be With Me.” She covered Richard Buckner’s “Surprise, AZ” for a Believer Magazine music compilation and appeared on BC Camplight’s album Hide, Run Away.

Most recently, Cynthia graced the stage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and contributed vocals to Sun Airway's albums Heraldic Black Cherry and Citrus Quarters. She studies guitar at Settlement Music School in Germantown.

When she is not playing music, Cynthia practices law. She began her legal career at Philadelphia Legal Assistance and as a mediator with Good Shepherd Mediation. She currently lives with her family in Mount Airy where she runs a neighborhood law office with her husband.


released June 16, 2015

All songs by Cynthia G. Mason

Vocals and Guitars: Cynthia G. Mason
Keyboards: Peter English
Bass: Ramon Monras-Sender
Drums: Christopher Sean Powell

Recorded at Miner Street Recordings, Philadelphia, PA

Produced by Brian McTear

Engineered by Amy Morrissey

Mixed by Matt Schimelfenig

Additional engineering and production assistance by Matt Poirier

Mastered by Paul Hammond and Paul Sinclair at Fat City Studio

Cover artwork by Amy Morrissey


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Cynthia G. Mason Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"This music is as vivid, evocative and narratively compelling as a film." -Magnet Magazine

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