Sound — 7
John Mayer started his career in Atlanta, Georgia in a band called LoFi Masters that was a duo with John and a friend. The band broke up due to creative differences, namely John's gravitation towards pop music. John Mayer released his first album, "Room for Squares", in 2001, which received international attention with several hits, including "Your Body is a Wonderland". From there John Mayer's career exploded and over time he began to move back towards blues, which was his first musical interest. "Born and Raised" is John Mayer's fifth studio album and is almost exclusively blues with a very country feel to it. There are twelve tracks with a run time of just over 46 minutes. The first single, "Shadow Days", was released in late February and gave a pretty good indication of the sound and spirit of the rest of the album. Really, the best way I can think to describe the album is to think of a college kid playing an acoustic guitar on the green, then add a twist of blues and a twist of country. Afterwards, add minimal studio wizardry used sparingly and sprinkle with harmonica and a strat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely is going to limit the range of listeners. The guitar is maybe more minimal than you would want from a blues album, with a lot of lap steel, but the finished product does indeed sound like a finished product.
Lyrics — 8
The vocal delivery sounds pretty much the standard for John Mayer - to me he always has sounded like a mellower version of Dave Matthews (yes, even MORE mellow than Dave Matthews), but it seems to work for his music. Listening to this album seems like something you would do if you were really sitting around chilled out, maybe while sipping a beer. I can't really say much as John Mayer's voice has been under duress with a recurring throat granuloma, but maybe that explains why it sounds like he is trying to take it easy vocally in order to preserve his voice. As an example of the lyrics from the album, here are some of the lyrics from "Shadow Days": "(first verse) Did you know that you could be wrong/ And swear you're right/ Some people been known to do it/ All their lives/ But you find yourself alone/ Just like you found yourself before/ Like I found myself in pieces/ On the hotel floor/ Hard times have helped me see/(chorus) I'm a good man, with a good heart/ Had a tough time, got a rough start/ But I finally learned to let it go/ Now I'm right here, and I'm right now/ And I'm open, knowing somehow/ That my shadow days are over/ My shadow days are over now/ (second verse) Well I ain't no troublemaker/ And I never meant her harm/ But it doesn't mean I didn't make it hard to carry on/ Well it sucks to be honest/ And it hurts to be real/ But it's nice to make some love/ That I can finally feel/ Hard times let me be". Really, the lyrics are well written - John Mayer has always had that going for him. In the singer/songwriter department he knows his business.
Overall Impression — 6
I've always had a love/hate relationship with John Mayer. At times he has seemed unauthentic to me as an artist and sometimes his music has swung much too far into the realm of pop music. Other times he has created very genuine music or collaborated with very genuine musicians. The end result is I really don't know what to think about John Mayer. With my mixed up feelings aside, "Born And Raised" is a pretty solid album but it isn't for everybody. The people who will enjoy this album are John Mayer fans and blues enthusiasts. The album is pretty mellow throughout, and predominately has a country blues feel to it, which may very well turn off a lot of potential listeners. With "Born And Raised" I realize I've almost given up my animosity towards John Mayer and getting close to just letting myself enjoy his music for what it is. My favorite tracks on the album are "Shadow Days" and "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967". I can't say that I dislike any of the other tracks on the album, but there are several that I feel lukewarm about - this would include "Love Is A Verb" and "Something Like Olivia" among others. The downfall of this album is that a lot of the songs run together for me on subsequent listens.