Sound — 7
Although the singer/songwriter was recently forced to cancel his tour due to granuloma surgery, the "Born And Raised" album will still be released as scheduled on May 22nd at a record store near you (if you can still find one). However, the entire album did begin streaming for free on iTunes, starting on May 14th. Much like with all of his other four studio albums, John Mayer's latest offering sounds nothing like his previous one. After winning Grammys for his Pop and Blues playing, Mr. Mayer has decided to throw his comically large hat into the Americana/Folk ring. Mayer returns almost exclusively to the acoustic guitar on this album, but the presence of slide-guitar and harmonica gives the album a heavy folk, sometimes slightly country, feel. Mayer said he was influenced this time around by the style of Bob Dylan, and it is easy to hear that come through on songs such as, "The Age Of Worry". While this album proves there is probably no genre of music John Mayer could not play well, it also proves he is still at his best when he is bringing his unmatched clean electric-guitar tone through his cracked Two-Rock amp on a Blues solo. This album sounds good and does achieve what it set out to, but nothing about "Born And Raised" is all that musically complex or inherently interesting. When I think of a great John Mayer song, I think of the incredibly challenging progression of "Neon", or the saturated Blues solos on "Where The Light Is", which "B&R" just does not have.
Lyrics — 7
Easy is the word I have to use to describe Mayer's lyrics on this album. While he is usually one of the best manipulators of the metaphor, the lyrics on "Born And Raised" do not measure up to previous records. The entire 13 tracks are proficient enough reminders of Mayer's ability to make melodies and catchy hooks, but nothing jumps up and demands your attention the way "Slow Dancing In A Burning Room" or "Stop This Train" did. The rhymes on this album seem to find simple and obvious partners far quicker and more frequently than on any other Mayer record. In the song, "Shadow Days", Mayer sings, "But you find yourself alone just like you found yourself before, like I found myself in pieces on the hotel floor." Proficient songwriting sure, but inspired it is not. The song "Speak For Me" is another perpetrator of this with lines such as, "Now the cover of a Rolling Stone, ain't the cover of a Rolling Stone. And the music on my radio, ain't supposed to make me feel alone." Meh. There are times on "Born And Raised" when he occasionally does have something to say, such as "Love Is A Verb", "Born And Raised" and "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967", but overall the lyrics fail to live up to his lofty standards. I loved the line in the soon-to-be road-trip favorite, "Queen Of California", "Jodi wrote Blue' in a house by the sea, I know there's got to be another color waiting on me", and "I'm heading out West with my headphones on, boarding a flight with a song in the back of my soul, that no one knows."
Overall Impression — 7
After delivering "Try", "Continuum" and "Where The Light Is", I now expect a John Mayer album to be a 10/10, and "Born And Raised" simply is not. The Beatles-esque titled, "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" is probably the most interesting track on the album which one can say reminds them of Mayer's more creative introspection. As the song is one giant metaphor itself, it will fit nicely in Mayer's catalog of music, but not many of the other 12 tracks will find the same fate. It feels like I am giving the album a negative review, but at a 7/10, it is well worth purchasing, but just don't expect it to blow your mind or put Mr. Mayer back on "Rolling Stone's" Guitar God magazine cover any time soon. But perhaps the same way John Mayer brought Blues' legends, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix back to the minds of a younger generation of listeners, so too will "Born And Raised" bring kids backwards from John Mayer to Bob Dylan and Neil Young.