Review Summary: A relaxing EP, Mayer mostly redoes a few of his songs from Continuum and Try! acoustically. His guitar work is excellent and it is certainly worth a listen.
What the hell is John Mayer’s problem? He had so much going for him, he was even accepted and attending the Berklee School of Music, one of the best music schools in the country, but then he dropped out to pursue a band with his friend in Atlanta. Even with his notable music skills inferred through his enrollment to Berklee, he became famous by writing pop songs that really didn’t show off his musical talent. He finally indulged himself into something more challenging when he formed the John Mayer Trio, a blues group that released the live album Try and a more grandiose Continuum. The combination of these two efforts comes in the form of a limited edition EP known as The Village Sessions.
The Village Sessions is a mostly acoustic EP, redoing a few songs off of Continuum and one off of Try. It really shows off Mayer’s guitar skills. But first, Mayer pulled in Ben Harper to make an alternate version of Waiting on the World to Change
. Harper makes some noticeable changes without really destroying the songs inspiring and happy mood. He puts a slight gospel tinge in the song, however, and it doesn’t fit with John Mayer’s style. As Waiting on the World to Change
wasn’t really that great of a song to begin with, Harper’s gospel take makes the song listenable but nothing good.
After the Harper remix, the EP gets into the good content, the acoustic renditions. The songs are mostly guitar duos, both guitar voices playing intricate parts and they weave in and out of each other perfectly. The bluesy style from Mayer’s trio makes a great subtle appearance on the album, especially with Mayer creating a great backbeat with his strumming on beats 2 and 4. Belief
starts the acoustic section off showcasing that backbeat groove perfectly. The song is a good mid-tempo bluesy song that grows intensity throughout the song. While not in the extremes of some singers like Damien Rice, it gives some life to the song. The chorus guitar riffing is some of the best on the EP, with a kick from the second guitar playing extremely low open chords. Mayer also does a slower track- Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
. It is a good mood change from the rest of the EP, but the guitar interplay and style lacks from the rest of the album. The song is lifeless, maybe in an attempt to make things a bit more chill. After a good 2 minutes of the song, it starts to just drag out.
Mayer’s lyrics have always been interesting enough to hold interest, but they’ve never been overly stellar either. He avoids many clichés or at least takes a different interpretation on them. The same occurs on here. In parallel to the musical side of the EP, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
has the worst lyrics. Much like Your Body is a Wonderland
from his debut, he uses the title as a metaphor and punch line in the track. The song is a breakup song, showcasing a few good lyrics and a lot of bad ones, including this particularly bad stanza:
I was the one you always dreamed of
You were the one I tried to draw
How dare you say it's nothing to me?
Baby, you're the only light I ever saw
Still, he has much better lyrics on the EP, including those on the closing track In Repair. The longest track on the album, In Repair
is really a capitulation of all of Mayer’s styles. It has his typical pop sensibilities but also shows his blues influence in his soloing and harmonic structure. His lyrics tell a story of realization, realizing that no one is truly ready for love, no matter how much experience they have. While never having a defining punch line, the overall effect of the lyrics are some of the best he has produced. The real showcase of the song, however, is Mayer’s guitar solo in the middle of the song. He takes a good length on the solo, pulling out some of his best blues licks before resolving back into a major chord and fading back into the main strumming pattern. He constructed the solo well, and it transitions back into the second half of the song perfectly. It is chill, much like Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
tried to be, but with a great solo and a slightly faster tempo, the song doesn’t tire at all.
The Village Sessions is a simple release, and it is probably good that it is only a limited edition EP. Mayer’s guitar work is fantastic throughout the acoustic tracks and it really shows what he is capable of producing. Even with Waiting on the World to Change
, which doesn’t fit in at all with the rest of the EP, it is relaxing throughout, a quick and easy listen. Mayer lets his guitar skills shine and his vocals take a back seat, although he is right on with his voice for the entire album. If you can get a hold of it and like John Mayer already, take a listen.
Good Love Is on the Way