Here’s the latest; hear the rest here.
For a long time, I had a … “tension” with John Mayer. The guy could play guitar; I mean really play. The guy could write songs; I mean really write songs.
In a word, I was probably jealous. As someone said once, I felt like Mayer was a version of me, only better.
However, there was something else. Though I had tremendous respect for him as a player and writer, there was something about him that just seemed to rub me the wrong way. He had a certain wry wit about his success, and at times he said all the right things about art and music and humility and respect and all that… but frankly, I just didn’t by it. I opened the door slightly on 2006’s Continuum, largely because I felt like it was slightly more stripped down and more “open and honest” (fuzzy words, I know, but they are the ones who really fit).
Then something happened. First, Mayer fell from grace due to a few really mis-handled interviews (warning: that interview is not very pleasant to read) and very public romantic disasters. These really just seemed to confirm everything I discerned about him.
But then, something else happened. Basically he lost his voice for about two years.
I told everyone I knew that I thought he was done.
But I was wrong.
In 2012, Mayer released Born and Raised, which sounded like some kind of love child between George Harrison, Neil Young’s Harvest, and a whole lot of 70s California rock.
(This is a good thing.)
What’s more, his writing had changed—at least to my ears—a lot.
He could still turn a phrase without much effort at all, but now there was something else present in his songs…
I call it humility.
Admittedly, I was going through some pretty tough times during 2012-2013, so I could have just been hearing what I wanted to, but I heard depths of honesty and humility (again that word: there’s just not a good substitute for it) that, to my ears, weren’t there before. That record—in particular Shadow Days and Born and Raised—became lifelines and inspiration of sorts for me during that time:
I’m a good man, with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go
Now I’m here, and I’m right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
My shadow days are over now, my shadow days are over now…
Then all at once it gets hard to take
It gets hard to fake what I won’t be
Cuz one of these days I’ll be born and raised
And it’s such a waste to grow up lonely…
Those words. Wow. They were my life.
“Queen of California” starts the record off, and it definitely sets the tone for the rest of the release: sonically it’s like a big pleasant pillow of restraint and warmth. Great tones. Lyrically, I hear wonder and gratitude.
I need more of that.