Mack: John Mayer was ‘Born’ for folk, bluesWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
John Mayer, “Born and Raised”
John Mayer is finally realizing his full potential as an artist by sticking to his wheelhouse of blues and folk. On “Born and Raised” he casts aside all the lovesick pop pandering, and what’s left is a stripped-down album with beautiful acoustic guitar licks on bluesy songs with creative lyrics. He is relying heavily on his folk side with songs clearly influenced by artists such as Cat Stevens, James Taylor and Bob Dylan.
Dylan’s influence is evident with Mayer’s use of harmonica for the first time on songs like “Born and Raised,” “Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey” and “A Face to Call Home.” The instrument is a nice touch and is used sparingly enough that it doesn’t overpower his guitar or vocals.
Mayer briefly strays back into rock with “Something Like Olivia.” It sounds like a laid-back version of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” except it is about pining after someone rather than contemplating leaving them. The guitar solos left me eagerly anticipating another John Mayer Trio album.
The award for the most unique title on the album goes to “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test January 1967.” It also earns the award for Mayer’s most creative lyrics ever while possessing the emotional depth and poignancy of songs like “Daughters” and “Stop This Train.” The muted trumpet intro from Chris Biscotti is gorgeous and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the song.
The only real miss on the album is “Love is a Verb” which tries too hard to be clever lyrically and falls short.
“Born and Raised” is Mayer’s most mature and complete album to date. It doesn’t have as many stand-out tracks as “Continuum” but is a better overall product. The only time he’s ever been better is playing live with John Mayer Trio on the concert DVD “Where The Light Is.” His new long-haired cowboy look is a little strange, but I suppose it fits the tone of the album.
****1/2 out of 5