Jessica Lea Mayfield’s roots may be in Americana, but her current stance reflects
the nocturnal instincts of an alt chanteuse. Her willowy vocals and aloof
ambiance make any attempt at quick classification more challenging than not,
and the contradiction between Mayfield’s willowy warble and the music’s darker
designs creates a stylistic limbo that’s never fully defined. What’s more, the
dense textures and percolating grooves suggest ominous overtones that sometimes
conflict with Mayfield’s airier intents.
Credit producer Dan Auerbach for this obvious disparity. A fan from
early on, Auerbach enlisted her for the Black Keys’ 2008 album Attack & Release and subsequently
produced her solo debut, With Blasphemy
So Heartfelt the same year. The two worked together again on Auerbach’s Keep It Hid, cementing a connection that
continues to weigh heavy on her career. Consequently, the distorted undertow of
“I’ll Be the One That You Want Someday,” the noisy static of “Somewhere in Your
Heart,” and the slow, sprawling groove steering the title track betray Auerbach’s
darker designs. On the other hand, Mayfield’s spacier side also holds sway; the
plucky “Nervous Lonely Night” and the vaguely melancholic “Sleepless” affirm
her low-lit gaze.
“I waited for the sun to come out/I never knew what the fuss was
about,” she coos on “Sometimes At Night.” Its obtuse observations like that
which prevent Tell Me from attaining
the more assertive impression it aspires for.
DOWNLOAD: “Nervous Lonely Night,”
“Tell Me” LEE ZIMMERMAN