Under Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me

Oh, musical protégés. You’re so adorably indebted to the more famous musician who backs you. Most protégés have Prince to thank for their brief moments in the spotlight, but Jessica Lea Mayfield is one up-and-comer whose career doesn’t seem so tethered to the creative whims of her mentor. That mentor, for those new to Miss Mayfield’s music, is Black Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach, who featured Mayfield on Attack & Release before producing her full-length debut in 2008. With Blasphemy So Heartfelt was a pleasant effort, its country-twang standing miles away from the Keys’ then-new foray into more psychedelic terrain. Though it isn’t the female-led answer to Brothers, Mayfield’s new album, Tell Me, shows that she stands to have a very bright future with or without Auerbach. The album eases in with some cool and composed folk-pop, with a nice twang on standout “Our Hearts Are Wrong.” As Tell Me progresses, though, the music gets stranger and Mayfield’s lyrics get more intriguing.

A surprising electronic bounce underscores “Grown Man,” and a primal thump drives the title track. Aside from the unexpected musical twists, Mayfield takes her somber, lovelorn lyrics into more paranoid places. Mayfield goes from regretting not listening to her friends in “Trouble” to distrusting them entirely in “Run Myself Into The Ground.” Whether or not she’s intentionally carrying on the legacy of downtrodden folk and country singers, Mayfield brings a bit of an unsettling character to these songs with her plaintive, unwavering voice. As she moves farther away from traditional country and blues (not unlike The Black Keys did), Jessica Lea Mayfield’s music becomes even more fascinating than before. Tell Me is a major step forward for Mayfield, and she can thank her own self for that.

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~ by E. on February 4, 2011.

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