David Mayfield. Strangers.
Compass Records, 2014. David Mayfield: http://davidmayfieldparade.net/
We reviewed Mayfield’s last release a bit over a year ago, and gave it a glowing review. In many ways there’s not a lot more to add. He’s got another winner here, this one with slightly different stylings and a major overhaul of personnel. No Parade this time around officially (although they’re mentioned in the notes), but a revolving set of musicians who play in various combinations on each track. I’m not sure if this reflects his signing to a new label, or the reported drastic changes in personality and behavior suggested by the “documentary” linked to below.
The songs on this album tend to be a bit more varied and complex than on Good Man Down, although he continues to maintain the character of second-rate also-ran. He uses changes in rhythm a lot. Point in evidence, “Caution,” the first track, a great tune with nice hooks that punctuates with slower rhythms between verses. Jen Starsinic on fiddle helps with that punctuation in fine fashion. “In Your Eyes,” further along in the album is similar in style. He does something different with the ballad “Ohio (It’s Fake),” by tacking on a rockish portion toward the end. (By the way, David, Ohio’s love for you is probably real). “My First Big Lie” is a beautiful ballad done in a more straightforward manner. The more bluegrass-tinged “The Man I’m Trying to Be” is followed by the catchy synth-pop “Show,” a song that seems to demonstrate the man he still is from the previous song. Self-loathing is the main theme of “The One I Hate,” a classic country/Americana tune with great harmonies provided by Taylor Brashears. “Ring Out the Old” is sort of a country dance-style tune, and except for the lyrics one might consider dancing to it, at least until the rhythm changes throw you off the dancefloor. “Hangman” has a similar effect--toe-tapping misery. Mayfield co-wrote “Rain on My Parade” with Langhorne Slim, a more rhythmically charged tune with more great fiddle from Starsinic and a .. drum solo by Jason Edwards (where do you hear such things outside of jazz or metal?). “Face the Storm” is also upbeat musically, and while the lyrics are about adversity, for a change the result is inconclusive. He might survive this one. The album ends with another lovely ballad with vocal support from Odetta Hartman.
Okay, so we have some great music here--sophisticated, well-sung and played, with lots of variety. The only constant is the lyrics about someone who is inadequate, a failure, a loser, a liar. Cheery stuff in a sense, if you like your Americana with a dash of goth. My only real complaint is the pink lyric sheet that is hard to read. Mayfield has been on tour recently as a trio these days rather than with a full band, with Cassie McKenzie Taylor and Angie Haze as his group (although neither appears on this album). I have no doubt that it’s quite a show.
Personnel: David Mayfield (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, baritone guitar, electric bass guitar, 12-string guitar, wobble bass, mellotron, vocals), Jen Starsinic (fiddle, banjo, vocals), Jason Edwards (drum kit, percussion), Christian Lee Hutson (organ, electric bass guitar, acoustic guitar, synthesizer, mellotron, piano, mandolin, vocals), Odetta Hartman (vocals), Evan Harrison Parker (upright bass), Sarah Clanton Schaer (cello), Taylor Brashears (vocals), Hannah Louise Stone (vocals), Joe Giotta (hi-hat), Joe Fick (upright bass), Nora Jane Struthers (vocals), RT Valine (bass vocals).
Tracks: Caution, Ohio (It’s Fake), The Man I’m Trying to Be, Show, The One I Hate, Rain on My Parade, My First Big Lie and How I Got Out of It, In Your Eyes, Ring Out the Old, Hangman, Face the Storm, Lazy Love.
The Grand Wazoo