Austin Chronical, 3/96
Evolution (Archer) - Sometimes evolution takes millions of years, and it seems like at least that long since Mason Ruffner's strat magic Gypsy Blood album came out on Columbia records in 1987. Since then, the Louisiana guitarist has migrated to Wimberly, where an archeological dig has uncovered this full-length from last year, which finds Ruffner's silky smooth sting always understated, but definitely in sync with this interesting little pile of songs. No big discoveries here, but Evolution is still light years more advanced than much of what passes for blues in Austin.
Austin-associated guitarist and singer Mason Ruffner appeared briefly in the '80s, cut two ferocious blues-rock records for Epic (his rock-radio hit was the corrosive "Gypsy Blood"), promptly got tired of trying to be a rock'n'roll star, and retreated home. Aside from some session work (especially his work in support of Bob Dylan circa Oh Mercy), this homemade set is Ruffner's first major resurfacing, and it's outstanding.
The toughest numbers on Evolution reveal a fluent lover of the blues and blues-tinged rock'n'roll, and his world-weary voice is the ideal vehicle for his tales of love, desolation, and the overlap between the two. Whether it's the straight-ahead roar of "I Got A Flame" and "Kings Highway" that open this record or the startling Hooker-style, doomy blues of "The Ragman" that slams it shut, Ruffner brings the most welcome demons to life.