John Mayer
Born and Raised


4.0
excellent

Review

by tom USER (12 Reviews)
October 6th, 2012 | 50 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: i'm headin' out west with my headphones on

The past few years have been rough on John Mayer. Since the release of 2009’s Battle Studies, there’s been a steady stream of bad publicity flowing his way due to a combination of his twitter antics, crass interviews, and string of failed relationships; particularly his infamous dalliance with teenage pop tart Taylor Swift. While it’s fair to say that Mayer’s predicament was mostly of his own making, the ensuing backlash was perhaps a tad excessive. He responded by abandoning the celebrity lifestyle and holing up in Electric Lady studios alone to focus on writing, resulting in his most introspective, genuine, and honest work to date.

Mayer makes his intentions clear from the get-go, namedropping both Neil Young and Joni Mitchell on silky smooth opener ‘Queen of California’ over a backing of acoustic guitars, pedal steel and tinkling piano keys. Influences of Americana, country and folk music are immediately apparent over the first half of the record, Mayer blending them seamlessly with his signature style to create an endearing sonic palette. The reflective ‘Shadow Days’ is an early standout, as is the breezy slice of John’s trademark blues-pop ‘Something Like Olivia’. A welcome addition to the mix on several songs is the harmonica, which lays the melancholy foundation for the album’s centrepiece title track. ‘Born and Raised’ is one of the best songs of Mayer’s career, confronting his own mortality and the fleeting nature of life itself with magnificent vocal harmonies courtesy of folk rock legends David Crosby and Graham Nash.

After the brilliance of the title track, the overlong ‘If I Ever Get Around to Living’ and downright lazy ‘Love Is a Verb’ threaten to derail the momentum of the record. Thankfully, this proves a mere hiccup as the charming tale of ‘Walt Grace’s Submarine Test’ gets things back on track, setting up the strongest third of the album. ‘Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey’ marks the return of the harmonica to great effect, paired with a storyline instantly relatable to those of us who have ever sought solace at the bottom of a bottle. ‘Whiskey’ is characteristic of the refreshing sincerity and candour present all throughout Born and Raised. Mayer’s lyrical perspective on these songs predominantly looks inside himself rather than at the world around him, consequently giving the feeling he is present in his own music in a way that he never quite has been before. In the past John the songwriter and John the outspoken public figure have seemed almost like two separate people which simply isn't the case here. He seems to have broken down the wall separating his inner Jekyll and Hyde and his music is reaping the benefits. This is made possible by the fact that he is a deceptively talented lyricist, in that he says precisely what he means to without pretence or crypticism while simultaneously avoiding fluff and cliché – not an easy thing to do.

Mayer’s touching lyrics combine with gorgeous female backing vocals to make ‘A Face to Call Home’ a late album highlight topped off by an achingly cathartic guitar solo. It's no secret that John is an extremely capable guitarist and he plays with such feeling that makes Born and Raised an utter delight to listen to. His fluent acoustic playing is consistently excellent and the tastefully restrained electric leads and solos absolutely shine. Additionally, he proves handy with both harmonica and keys, successfully weaving all of these textures into a rich aural tapestry. I would be remiss to not also mention Greg Leisz’s contribution with both pedal and lap steel. He gives a subtle yet captivating performance that really adds another dimension to several songs here. All of these elements are bound together by the familiar smooth rasp of Mayer’s voice and warm production from Don Was that is exceptionally easy on the ears.

While its namesake title track showed Mayer’s contemplative side, ‘Born and Raised (Reprise)’ has him embracing the passage of time in a jovial saloon bar jam as he belts out ‘born and raised / locks of brown and streaks of grey / I was brought up in brighter days / it’s good to say / now I’m born and raised’. It’s short, sweet and closes out the album in grand style. Make no mistake, Mayer’s fifth studio LP is one of his finest works. It displays a level of maturity and honesty unprecedented among his discography and the newfound Americana aesthetic really suits him. Sure, he’s hardly reinventing the wheel here. That’s not the point. Mayer is damn good at what he does – playing the guitar and writing great songs – and he is right back near the top of his game.



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user ratings (145)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
tommygun
October 5th 2012


25403 Comments


This was a tricky one to write. Not sure how it turned out. The album is really great though, his
second best after Continuum.

Digging: Banks - Goddess

tommygun
October 5th 2012


25403 Comments


'Queen of California': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0x2OQpFvak

'Something Like Olivia': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXfbKdMXIPo

'Born and Raised': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19HgSnf18pM

bloc
October 6th 2012


35025 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice work dude.

I love Mayer's skill, but I thought this album was kind of disappointing.

tommygun
October 6th 2012


25403 Comments


Thanks bloc. Yeah the direction he took here seems to be a bit love or hate. It's nice to see him try new things nonetheless. Battle Studies played it far too safe for my liking.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2012


4456 Comments


Excellent review, man. I've never been too big on John Mayer, except for an occasional few songs.

POS'd.

tommygun
October 6th 2012


25403 Comments


@Paperback - Thanks mate, I always appreciate your feedback. I have to admit Mayer's music is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I've been playing this in the car a lot lately and thought I might as well write this since it was missing a review. Perhaps the John Mayer Trio live album Try! might be more up your alley, it leans much more towards blues than pop. Mayer is one hell of a blues guitarist.

larrytheslug
October 6th 2012


1315 Comments


didnt even have to apologize for having bad english. im impressed.

tommygun
October 6th 2012


25403 Comments


Huh?

larrytheslug
October 6th 2012


1315 Comments


oh, just the indian news guy...sorry for not clarifying.

tommygun
October 6th 2012


25403 Comments


Haha no worries man I thought you were implying there were mistakes in the review and I was like damn I'm sure I proofread!

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2012


4456 Comments


Yeah, I've heard a few of his stuff and I agree that John Mayer is a pretty talented blues guitarist. I've just never really paid much attention to him but I'll check those albums out, thanks for the recs.

WhiteNoise
October 9th 2012


3253 Comments


I know that Mayer has absolutely amazing Guitar skills, but i've never given an album of his a shot and some of the songs I actually have heard don't do it for me...

Would this be a good album to start with? Has it got much Guitar work?

tommygun
October 9th 2012


25403 Comments


Hey buddy, I'd get Continuum first. It's easily his best record. It has a lot of great guitar playing it's all very understated and tasteful. He doesn't really wank much, only on his live stuff.

Cipieron
October 9th 2012


3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, I think you nailed it with saying Continuum>this>Battle Studies


great album, sad it will be overlooked by so many just because it's John Mayer and/or it's country

Douglas
October 9th 2012


9201 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Man I completely forgot about this release. I am going to have to check it.

tommygun
October 9th 2012


25403 Comments


@Cipieron - Yeah man ah well that's the way it goes. I wouldn't really call this full blown country, I mean there are some country influences but his voice is way too smooth/no southern accent haha. Apparently he was listening to a lot of Neil Young while writing this and it shows.

Cipieron
October 10th 2012


3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hah, didn't know that.. but I can totally hear it now

It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here

robvusechevic
January 31st 2013


92 Comments


The mans a guitar god.

tommygun
January 31st 2013


25403 Comments


nah

i mean he's a great player but nah

tommygun
February 9th 2013


25403 Comments


sweet thanks



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