Live at CMJ, Day 3: Jessica Lea Mayfield

review by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Doron Gild

It is a rare quality to be able to touch a listening audience these days with just the first few footsteps of a tune. Jessica Lea Mayfield might only be nineteen years old, but if there is anything we learn from the music community it is that with youth comes the clarity and severity of those first bleeding battles of heartbreak and lost loves. Jessica Lea Mayfield hails from Kent, Ohio, and has been performing with her family band, One Way Rider, since the age of eight under the nickname Chittlin’. Though she may appear sweet and innocent don’t let your guard down because of her pixie presence and her treasured guitar. With her debut, Blasphamey, So Heartfelt, the world was introduced to the latest in the line of succession of brilliantly talented American women chanteuse and is destined to hold rank against Patsy Kline or June Carter if she spreads her wings wide enough. Unlike the fickle lyrics of the first single, “For Today,” in which she cautions her audience about the wild ways of her heart “so hold me, but only for today”, often you are left clutching fast to her voice as it sickens you with each listen. With the same cunning talent known to Cat Power or Neko Case, Mayfield owns a hauntingly entangled feminine mystique that creeps into your most treasured memories and sharpest heartaches. It is no wonder that she gained the attention of Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who selected her smoothly sharp mastery behind the microphone as a vocal presence on their most recent album, Attack and Release. So taken with her nobility and natural chemistry was Auerbach that he stayed on the scene over the span of two years to help produce her debut release, which just saw wide exposure this fall thanks to Polymer Sounds. Not only did Auerbach provide his music savvy and home studio to record Mayfield’s album, but also offered her an opening position our the Black Key’s tour dates scattered across America. The Black Keys vocalist yet again has cultured another beautifully stunning music force. Taunting the appetites of county, folk, bluegrass, soul, jazz and indie music lovers alike, Mayfield performs honey-soaked love ballads, like “I Can’t Lie To You Love” and “The One That I Love The Best,” with her sharp sultry lit and slow steady bass back beats, to make even the most aloof hipsters swoon. Keep an ear open for cameo appearances by Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken and Frank McElroy dotted throughout the album. Consider yourself forewarned that by the end of her in-studio performance you are certain to have such a strong surge of goosebumps that even the warmest of embraces won’t erase the ghost of Mayfield and her stirring melodies.

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