Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me

February 17th, 2011 by Taylor DeBoer


The Ohio folk singer/songwriter, Jessica Lea Mayfield has combined the likes of country singers Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams with the new neo-folk country sound of The Avett Brothers and Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, on her new LP, Tell Me. With a soft, but powerful voice and lofty love songs, Mayfield is on the verge of breaking into a trendy indie country scene, especially with her support of the Avett Brothers on their current tour. From the steady thump of bass-lines to the vintage screech of 70s organ, Tell Me has a relentless cry toward “what music used to be”, something the Avetts missed on their most recent LP.

With Black Keys vocalist/guitar player Dan Auerbach as producer and the tenured Nonesuch Records as the label, Mayfield has all the potential to make her sophomore release a break out record.

The Rilo Kiley-ish “Blue Skies Again” has a tender vocal melody and harmony, over the grungy shred of electric guitars. The simplicity of Mayfield’s songwriter combined with the experimental instrumentation is what makes her so appealing.

The bubble gum pop keys on “Grown Man” create a nice contrast to the sensual and somber undertones of the lyrics. The albums best song, “Nervous Lonely Night” has so much going on–intersecting 70s style organ with steady clean guitar strumming with angelic harmonies with synthetic synthesizer with poppy, thumping drums. It’s repetitive rhythm and lyrics make the song catchy and effective.

The traditional ballad, “Sometimes At Night,” shows Mayfield’s ability to flat out write a song–it has a chorus that would fit perfectly within a Ryan Adams song circa Heartbreaker as well as on a Gram Parsons album in the 70s.

The title track “Tell Me” has a groovy bass-line and detune vocal effect that makes Mayfield’s voice swirl through the song with conviction.  Its desperate tone proves her penchant for vulnerability over control—a thread throughout the album.  Is she a traditional folk singer or an experimental pop musician? The album is a balance of these two questions, with lyrics that always favor the glass being half empty.

The sweetness of “Sleepless” screams Bright Eyes and Wilco–it’s pure and beautiful. “Cause my momma said no one can stop me,” Mayfield sings over a slow, steady, guitar strum. I sure wouldn’t disagree.

4/5

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