What started as a treatment of ‘throat granuloma’ has resulted in a serious throat condition, leading to a cancelled tour by John Mayer. If this is the last we hear from John Mayer, then it really will be a tragedy. With that being said, right now what we are left with from Mayer’s music box is a great new album Born and Raised.
After great albums from Bruce Springsteen and Norah Jones to start 2012, it’s only right that music Americana gets one from John Mayer this year. The man who was Waiting on the World to Change and Slow Dancing in a Burning Room as he defined the last decade of amazing albums with the cult classic Continuum, is back. He returns with legacy makers Crosby, Stills and Nash, who back Mayer’s vocals on his own Neil Young, Harvest esque sunny, summer, sweet and sedate acoustic record.
Crosby, Stills and Nash will be proud of Queen Of California too, a beach-bare, stripped-down Los Angeles slow rock classic built for the sun and the boardwalk. The inspired Age Of Worry could find itself at home on an Irish folk album, while Shadow Days really illuminates this phoenix rising from the ashes. After the sweet Battle Studies that some labelled ‘Safe’, this rock student is back in the war studying the classic hallmarks of legendary American singer/songwriters.
Speak For Me sings more for Mayer as he shows the world he’s back and here to stay, even if it doesn’t involve ‘the cover of a Rolling Stone’. Something Like Olivia is a delightful, devoted blues jam to boot. The Victoria singer looks to find his new muse with a sweet steadiness. The album title track Born and Raised and its Reprise are classic numbers for a record that looks at the growth of acoustic singing and songwriting and where it all came from. These cool, laid-back cuts may not be for every mainstream fan, but they serve as the perfect craft choice for the next chapter of rock’s young leading man, a groundbreaker who looks to follow all the greats in the musical territories that helped pave the way for the landscapes of their respective legacies.
If I Ever Get Around To Living makes the most of an album that really takes off in its adolescence, a second-half and final act that sees words-worthy songwriting like Love is a Verb, and perfect production like the hypnotic horns and haunting harmonies on Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967. Then Mayer laments and yearns Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey on the drowned sorrows of an introspective love and life song that hits the rocks with a twist. It’s clear to hear this man has rebounded from his self-confessed ‘douchebag’ years with a more grown-up sound and mature outlook.
A Face To Call Home is a beautiful song that really closes this CD with class. “I am an architect/of days that haven’t happened yet”, Mayer sings, making himself again feel welcome as a household name and face amongst mainstream music. From the days of his Edward Scissorhand Continuum curls, Johnny Mayer has always drawn Johnny Depp lookalike comparisons, and now with his new long hair, beard and stetson, the two Hollywood heartthrobs even dress the same. Art is looking to imitate life too as just like Depp’s Tourist, Rum Diary and Dark Shadows movies with Born and Raised and the previous Battle Studies, Mayer is playing it sweet and safe. There is nothing wrong with this as the quality is still in control, but just like Depp, once John starts taking more risks like the ones that highlighted his unqiue career, things will get more creative and classic. His discography, like his first namesake’s filmography, deserves this. In the catalogue, this is just a fun and fancy footnote. The best, hopefully, is yet to come. TIM DAVID HARVEY.