By Joe Lowery
Jessica Lea Mayfield is one of those artists who really pours her heart into what she’s singing about. In the case of her debut album, “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt,” released in 2008, she sings about the heartbreak of a relationship gone south.
According to online interviews (re:YouTube), Mayfield has been playing in bluegrass bands since a very early age, although the style of her studio albums are more folk than bluegrass. She’s toured and opened for folk-bluegrass band The Avett Brothers for years.
Growing up in Kent, Ohio, Mayfield met fellow Ohio native Dan Auerbach, singer and guitarist for the Akron-based blues band, The Black Keys. Over the course of two years, Mayfield and Auerbach recorded what would become “With Blasphemy So Heartfelt.” After unsuccessfully trying to get her signed to a label, Auerbach started his own label to get Mayfield’s music out to the public.
The debut album consists of 12 tracks, all (save for “Bible Days”) focusing on relationships, bad or good.
Standout tracks include—well, honestly, I like the entire album. Sometimes it’s depressing, sometimes it’s what I need, but it’s always soulful. Instead of standout tracks, maybe I should say “downloadable tracks” or “tracks to YouTube.” In that case, “Kiss Me Again,” “For Today,” “I Can’t Lie to You, Love,” “We’ve Never Lied” and “I’m Not Lonely Anymore” are great tracks to check out. Again, I realize this is almost half the album, but it’s worth it.
Mayfield’s second album, “Tell Me,” released in February 2011, keeps most of the feel of her first album while still managing to change up her sound via back-up vocals, electronic, almost techno-sounding beats and stronger sounds emerging from her other band members.
Just listen to the track “Grown Man” to hear the stark contrast between Mayfield’s second offering and her debut. That’s not to say it’s bad, just different.
What remains the same in “Tell Me” is the subject matter. You still get more of the relationship material, just presented in a more upbeat style. Mayfield’s bluegrass twang still comes through on the record, the best example being “Our Hearts Are Wrong” and “Somewhere In Your Heart.”
What makes Jessica Lea Mayfield so great is her ability to completely pour out her emotions in a song. You’re not going to hear her on mainstream radio and you don’t need to. She speaks for herself, not a record company.