John Mayer: Paradise Valley (Columbia)
John Mayer has put himself at risk for being known more for his peccadilloes and his famous girlfriends (with benefits) instead of his music.
Mayer, an erstwhile sensitive singer/songwriter and sometimes blues player seems to be going Hollywood which could easily kill off his artistic credibility. He has admitted that he is self-absorbed which is why I guess Mayer likes for everybody to know he is a success with the fairer sex as it boosts his ego.
Mayer also has something of a big mouth so that we probably know more than we want to about his personal affairs.
In ye olde English terms Mayer would qualify as a ‘cad.’
Now the paparazzi that usually follows around the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift etc., also follows Mayer around and he doesn’t seems to mind them.
However, Mayer has released his eighth studio album that he has named Paradise Valley where he keeps a home in Montana. Although this new release was recorded in Los Angeles, the sound is all country, folk and rootsy acoustic pop that suggests his heart isn’t so much in the city as in his rural retreat for these often self reflective tunes.
Paradise Valley is also an excellent album and one that will help stave off the notion that Mayer isn’t still a major musical talent. This new release has made its debut in the USA at the No. 2 spot on the national charts as country-boy-next-door Luke Bryan hangs on to the top of the charts with his Crash My Party album.
There are 11 tracks on Paradise Valley and every song has something to recommend it, making this a strong album throughout.
Mayer’s current single, Wildfire, is a handsome folk pop ditty about the fleeting moments of summer with the lyric “a little bit of summer’s what the whole year’s all about.”
Meanwhile, the breezy song Paper Doll has also become a minor hit and is ostensibly Mayer’s retort to Taylor Swift’s Dear John song where he sings “yer like 22 girls in one” with an acoustic mix that Jack Johnson fans will enjoy.
Mayer also offers a winsome live-in-the-studio homage to the recently passed away J.J. Cale with a cover of Call Me The Breeze that has fantastic guitar runs.
Meanwhile, on again-off again girlfriend Katy Perry helps out co-writing and singing along to the horn-infused ballad Who You Love that sounds as if it was also live off the floor with Perry giggling at the fade out.
My fave track is the closing On The Way Home that has a groove of Americana pop not unlike Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Mayer may have proven to be a bit of an overexposed pill in the tabloids but his musical instincts are still in very good form.
Tedeschi Trucks Band: Made Up Mind (Sony)
This is the second studio album for the husband and wife led band with Derek Trucks on slide guitar and Susan Tedeschi on acoustic guitar and vocals.
The TT Band is a big one with 10 members that includes two drummers and a horn section. Between their two studio albums, the TT Band released the live two-CD concert set Everybody’s Talking that established them on record as a top notch jam band as fortified by their many live gigs.
But Made Up My Mind is an 11-track single disc, studio release with shorter radio-friendly songs that will naturally be expanded on the road for jam interplay and stretched workouts.
Fans of Trucks superior guitar solos might be disappointed by the brevity of his string bending and sliding here but the song is the thing on Made Up Mind. The title track is a superb blues rock introduction that put a big smile on this old Faces fan as the guitar borrows some nice riffage from Ronnie Wood when he was the lead for this legendary Brit rock band.
And it is this sort of nod to the past glories of blues rock and the southern fried Dixie of old that had Rolling Stone magazine write that Made Up Mind “sounds like history renewed.”
Tedeschi sounds in particularly fine form here on these blues rock and soul songs that reminded me of a blend of Bonnie Raitt with long forgotten Delaney & Bonnie (the latter’s Best Of set is hard to find yet well worth seeking out).
After the lead-off Faces-like rocker the TT Band settles into more soulful ballads such as Do I Look Worried and The Storm that both reminded me of Adele.
The most Allman Bros.-like song here is All That I Need where Trucks stretches out the most while the edgiest song here strips down to a small combo for Whiskey Legs.
This powerhouse album of soul and blues rock will solidify the Tedeschi Trucks Band following after their Grammy winning debut and I am sure the followers can’t wait for the live expanded concerts.