Serial heartbreaker of celebs (from Jennifer Love Hewitt to Taylor Swift) John Mayer discovers a retreat to the countryside has detoxed him and lent a country twang to Born and Raised, his fifth album.
Album Art courtesy of Von Pixel
Named one of the “New Guitar Gods” by Rolling Stones Magazine, the 7-Grammy Awards winner returns from his 2010 hiatus and comes back a new man with a new anthem: “Shadow Days”. The single from John Mayer’s newest album was released on Feb 27 through Mayer’s blog. Thickly set with an impeccable blend of country, blues and rock, it’s the ideal choice to set the stage for both the album and Mayer.
“And I’m hoping, knowing somehow / that my shadow days are over”, Mayer’s raspy, sultry voice flows through the subtle rifts of the electric guitar. If lyrics can be believed, with this release, the Rolling Stones Magazine’s Slowhand Jr. (after Eric Clapton) has freed himself from his mistakes and forgiven himself (“I’m a good man with a good heart / Had a tough time, got a rough start / And I finally learned to let it go”). “Shadow Days” is also Mayer’s swansong to former flame Jennifer Anniston. The pair had got together in April 2008 and finally ended their intense relationship in late 2009 after a series of breakups. A source had told US Weekly that “it really took him a long time to get over her” and that Mayer “wrote the song as a farewell letter knowing [Jen] would hear it”. It was through immense self reflection that the reformed bad boy realised that “they weren’t right for each other”. Amazing what trading your LA and New York homes for solitude and good old-fashioned values in Montana can do for the soul and songwriting.
As if to compensate for the incredible backlash from tell-all interviews he gave to Rolling Stones and Playboy Magazine, the latest album heavyweights from both the blues and folk rock genre, such as producer Don Was, who has worked magic on the Rolling Stones, famed guitarist B.B. King and blues singer Bonnie Raitt. In addition, Mayer packs on the heady vocals of featured folk rock guests David Crosby and Graham Nash, as well as session keyboardist Chuck Leavell, best known for his contributions to Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.
Photo courtesy of The Chaplain of Pop
Even the album art does justice to the content within: a country-themed backdrop on which are hung mementos from the 70s to 90s.
The album begins with the light layers of early 70s rock from “Queen of California”. Warm and inviting, the song also reflects Mayer’s decision to take time off for soul searching (“Goodbye sorrow, goodbye shame / I’m headed out west with my headphones on”). He told Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen Show earlier this month that he was glad to be out of the spotlight and wanted to be “33 and 34, instead of 28, for the fourth year”.
Tracks like “Speak for Me”, “Love is a Verb”, “Something Like Olivia” and “A Face to Call Home” are evocative of Mayer’s style from Battle Studies and Continuum while others like “If I Ever Get Around to Living” and “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, Jan. 1967” breathe a gust of fresh air to the other stylistically similar tracks in the album. The light-hearted chords paired with a snazzy, blues trumpet pulling you deeper and deeper into the song, yet maintaining the carefree essence cuts a striking chord amongst the depth of the other tracks whose undertones denote weightier issues Mayer tries to bring across.
The 10th track “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” is almost dream-like, the repetitive chords reminds you of the sensation of having one foot in reality and another in dreamland. The call of whiskey and water reverberating throughout the chorus subtly suggests a seemingly failing will to break out of this addictive cycle. This wonderfully trance-like quality brings about a similar kind of addiction to the song itself. Well after all, “It’s just a phase / And I still might have a ways to go”.
Photo courtesy of JohnMayerVEVO
The reprise of “Born and Raised” brings a wonderfully fitting closure to the album. Purely filled with country-sque guitar work, a chorus of voices singing alongside Mayer and the metallic sheen of the harmonica, it’s reminiscent of the classic “Home on the Range” and stirs up memories of cowboys and the wild countryside.
This offering highlights Mayer’s maturation and struggle as he picks himself up from his controversial past. The songs all share a common theme of responding to Mayer’s past troubles and his metamorphosis into a changed man. Born and Raised is not only a chronicle of Mayer’s rebirth, it’s also an intimate glimpse into his personal life and a great new album.
Artiste: John Mayer
Album Name: Born and Raised
Rating (out of 5): 4/5
Genre: Blues Rock
Record Label: Columbia, Sony Music
Release Date: May 22
- Queen of California
- The Age of Worry
- Shadow Days
- Speak For Me
- Something Like Olivia
- Born and Raised
- If I Ever Get Around to Living
- Love Is A Verb
- Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967
- Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey
- A Face To Call Home
- Born and Raised (Reprise)
- Fool To Love You