Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tell Me (Nonesuch)

 |   |  1 min read

Jessica Lea Mayfield: Trouble
Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tell Me (Nonesuch)

With a languid delivery not dissimilar to Lucinda Williams but with a whole swag more alt.rock in her system, Mayfield certainly keeps excellent company: she appeared on the Black Keys' album Attack and Release (the Keys' Dan Auerbach produced this); she has opened for familiar Elsewhere names such as the Avett Brothers, Ray LaMontagne and Jay Farrar; and came into her current musical location via bluegrass and a love of Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters.

There's no bluegrass here though, folks.

This is (mostly) moody alt.country given an indie.rock twist'n'jangle -- and damned if she doesn't sound like a hurtin' Karen Black in the Jack Nicholson/Bob Rafelson film Five Easy Pieces on the monochromatic/monotone Trouble.

It's very much the stuff of a lonely motel room near a railway track in the Mid West, but with an electric guitar and buzzy amp, not a mournful acoustic.

Auerbach and the small band add slightly disconcerting trip-hop touches in places (Tell Me) and in others locate Mayfield in a strange western saloon -- but it is her self-assured lyrics which grab your attention: yes she's been hurt and there is a sexual backdrop, but she's more mature and confident than her lovers ("I ain't gonna change for nobody at all, I'm starting to like this new love I have found") and she has -- in her lyrics -- found her voice.

"I won't let you stand in my way" she sings on the wonderful, sad sounding Sleepless right at the end. "I'm not alone, I have company, an internal roar that won't let me be."

These could be read as feminist polemics, but they sound utterly personal discoveries.

And from the twanging, dreamy but gloom-laden opener I'll Be The One You Want Someday through the almost-soulpop and poetics of Blue Skies Again (the most mainstream track here) and the oddly cheap techno-groove of Grown Man (younger woman reassuring her older man, and herself, about the relationship) to the sexual Sometimes at Night (located in "one of those seedy outdoor motels") this is very different album which constantly unpsets expectations.

Jessica Lea Mayfield has country in her blood but a big city world weariness and -- like the best -- suggests she has lived these songs.

This really is quite something.

Like the sound of this? Then try this.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Emiliana Torrini: Me and Armini (Rough Trade)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Emiliana Torrini: Me and Armini (Rough Trade)

Only the most diligent Elsewhere reader with perfect recall might remember this Icelandic singer who appeared on the Next Brel compilation/tribute to the singer-songwriter Jacques Brel which... > Read more

Jesse Will: Hold Your Cards (jesswillmusic)

Jesse Will: Hold Your Cards (jesswillmusic)

Elsewhere rarely bothers with EPs: too many of them; too few songs to glean a picture; too often juvenilia which the artists come to regret . . . But we make an exception for Auckland... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACO PASTORIUS: High times and low notes

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JACO PASTORIUS: High times and low notes

For a jazz musician, Jaco Pastorius died in pretty creditable rock n’ roll style: drugs, delusions, alcohol and itinerancy. And beaten to a pulp by a nightclub manager who didn’t... > Read more

Flame: This Old Heart of Mine (1978)

Flame: This Old Heart of Mine (1978)

Yes, just as the ad campaign said, "Blondie is a band", so we'd have to acknowledge that Flame were also a group -- but when a band is fronted by a vocalist as powerful as New York's... > Read more