Friday, December 21, 2012

Concert Review: Mayfield vs. Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield and David Mayfield. Sibling Rivalry Tour (Kent).
The Kent Stage, Kent, Ohio December 14, 2012.
Jessica Lea Mayfield:  
David Mayfield:

Jessica and David started playing together in the family band, One Way Rider, way back in the mid-nineties in Kent, Ohio.  One Way Rider consisted of father, mother, and siblings David and Jessica in the Mayfield clan.  They started out playing in hometown Kent, Ohio, and eventually toured as far away as Tennessee.  After that family start, both brother and sister went their separate ways and recorded albums on their own and with other artists.  For Jessica, those solo records came after a number of collaborations with the likes of the Black Keys.  Jessica has been back to Northeast Ohio on several occasions, including with Garrison Keillor on his Prairie Home Companion show at Blossom Music Center in 2010.  David’s individual career started as a “gun-for-hire” and side-man for a number of artists.  While both Mayfields have had successful careers, Jessica has more popular appeal, while David has more acclaim within the bluegrass community.  The December 14th show at the Kent Stage was the last of the Sibling Rivalry tour, a fourteen-show tour across the US featuring both brother and sister together again as equals.  

The opening act for Sibling Rivalry, Kent edition, was another hometown hero- Shivering Timbers.  Shivering Timbers hails from Akron, Ohio, and consists of husband and wife Jayson (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Benn (stand-up bass, vocals), Brian Oliver (drums), and lately daughter Suzi (piano, shakers, and cute-factor).  For most of the past few months, Suzi has been touring with her parents, and often playing on stage with them, on a small children’s piano and a pair of protective earmuffs.  It’s this family atmosphere that made this show in particular such a joy to see; beautiful music, and an exceptionally rare look into the family lives of professional musicians.  Seeing these dynamics at work was truly fortunate, and if you get a chance to see either the Mayfield family or the Benn family together again, make sure that you get to see it!

The music for the night was composed of approximately equal parts Jessica’s solo work, David’s solo work, and third-party pieces.  The set list is at the bottom of this piece, and I urge you to check out recordings of these pieces in particular.  I came into the show as a fan of Jessica’s, but not familiar with David, and left on a mission to find more of David’s music as quickly as I could.  Both musicians are technically solid players.  Jessica brings a cool, refined presence to the stage with her polished voice and flawless look, while David brings a comedic flare and gruff hipster persona.  The tour title- Sibling Rivalry- hit at the heart of exactly what made the show so special.  Any two musicians of Jessica and David’s caliber can come together to put on a fabulous show.  It was the added layer of their own sibling rivalry that made the show epic.  For a little background, one would do well to understand that while in Nashville as a family band, David took a job with his father as janitors for a factory to support the family.  The interplay of older, responsible sibling on stage with younger, more popular sibling was apparent without being a distraction.  On Jessica’s songs, David tended to emphasize his own playing, at times overpowering Jessica.  The two were far more balanced on the third-party songs, and David’s songs gave him room to show off his talent without trying too hard to impress.

Musically, David moved effortlessly from mandolin to guitar and back, changing instruments on almost every song.  David’s strong suit is definitely his mandolin playing, and his won multiple awards because of that.  His stage presence is another trait in his favor, as he told jokes and stories, and introduced the songs.  Jessica’s crystal clear voice rang true on all notes, and her lyrics are known to be more poetic than most writers manage.  Her vocal range is a bit limited, and most of her songs are arranged for higher notes, but she pulls it off well while staying perfectly composed.  While there were some issues with the sound board, the quality of their playing and singing shone through like the Geminid meteors the night before their performance.  Make your new year’s resolution to introduce yourself to more of these exceptional musicians.  

Happy holidays to you and your family.

Personnel: Jessica Lea Mayfield (vocals, guitar), David Mayfield (vocals, guitar, mandolin)

Set list: River of Jordan; Kiss Me Again (Jessica); Breath of Love (David); There is a Time by the Dillards; Midnight Storm by Ralph Stanley; Somewhere in Your Heart (Jessica); Old Toy Trains by Roger Miller; A Dude’ll Do (David); For Today (Jessica); Breakdown by Jeff Ferguson; What Do You Call It (David); Don’t Let Me Love You by Hank Williams; Snap a Finger, Jesus by Ralph Stanley; Standing in the Sun (Jessica); Asheville Junction (David); Lonely Myspace Waltz (One Way Rider)
Encore- Human Cannonball (David); Bible Days (Jessica); Suffering Down Below (traditional)

Lisa Regula Meyer

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