John Mayer has demonstrated himself as the musical chameleon time and time again, from the bubblegum pop nature of his debut album “Room For Squares” and his hook driven soft rock album “Heavier Things”, followed by the soulful pop-blues album “Continuum”, to the ode to adult-contemporary rock album “Battle Studies”. The man who once traded his acoustic guitar for a Fender Stratocaster in 2005 has again returned to his grass roots and added a bit of a twang as well.
The self-proclaimed folk album, “Born and Raised”, debuted this May to the delight of Mayer fans who were eagerly awaiting the next project. In an NPR interview, Mayer claims that the inspiration for the new direction was the result of a Bob Dylan album passed over time and time again before it caught his ear 30 years later.
John Mayer’s Born and Raised
The opening track “Queen of California” sets the tone of the throw back album with references to classic artist in the lyrics, “Looking for the sun that Neil Young hung after the gold rush of 1971” and “Joni wrote Blue in her house by the sea, I know there’s got to be a song that’s a-waiting for me”.
“Age of Worry” emulates the Bob Dylan vocal style by staying with a bouncy verse that never leaves the chosen octave.
The album’s first single “Shadow Days” features a signature folk favorite; a slide and a telecaster but adds the typical catchy Mayer hook. “Something Like Olivia” may have the greatest pop feel of any song on the record. Lyrics like, “Now I’m not trying to steal no lover away from no-one else, but if Olivia herself were at my door, I’d say I’d have to let her in” strangely mimic the words that could’ve been on Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”.
The title track “Born and Raised” hits the soul harder than any other song on the album. Featuring a heartfelt harmonica to accompany lyrics like, “Then all at once it gets hard to take, it gets hard to fake what I won’t be. Cause one of these days I’ll be born and raised, and it’s such a waste to grow up lonely.” – this is a tune that will linger in your mind similar to Continuum’s “Stop This Train”.
The talented Chris Botti makes one of the few guest appearances on the album with a trumpet solo leading into “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test – January 1967”. This fun little ditty describes the story of a man who pursued his passion to build a submarine equipped with a fan blade and a library card. His friends who once laughed and told him he was crazy were now receiving calls from Japan after he made the journey.
Other notable songs include “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” and “A Face to Call Home”. When all is said and done, John Mayer has written a very listenable album. Recruiting artists like Crosby & Nash to lend vocals shows his commitment to the folk aspect. I would not be the least bit shocked if someone told me the majority of the vocal melodies were written by Paul Simon right after ‘Graceland’ and the guitar riffs imposed by Jeff Tweedy after being scrapped from ‘Sky Blue Sky’.
“Born and Raised” is the perfect summer album to listen to 1 hour into a long road trip after the initial excitement has worn off and the calming noise of the wheels on the highway has set in. It’s a must own, but if you’re looking to sing along to single after single, you may want to invest your money in the hook driven “Room For Squares”.
Written by Patrick Kennedy
OurVinyl | Contributor