I’ve always been a huge John Mayer fan, since his first release. I’ve seen him several times in concert and always loved his show. When I listened to this album, I wasn’t too into it right away. In fact, shortly after hearing this album for the first time, I told one of my friends that it sounds like John Mayer is trying to be Neil Young, and that the sound of this album seemed forced to me. My friend wisely pointed out that this could actually be a more honest album. Maybe John actually plays more like this on his own, and we now have the opportunity to see this side of him? Of course, we were just speculating about the difference in sound.
Here’s what I do know: this album could arguably be John’s most honest album to date. He had a few rough years of scandalous comments (such as the infamous comments about sex with Jessica Simpson), and it seemed that he might have lost his way a little bit. He was being incredibly open but it was a little much. On Born and Raised, John is open, too, but this time its more honest and its more heart-felt. It feels like he is actually expressing himself in a softer tone with more perspective and understanding about the past few years of his life.
Born and Raised marks a shift in style for Mayer, although I suppose every album of he has released shows a different style of his musical talents. Still, his latest release is more stripped down and exposed. With the exception of “Something Like Olivia” and “Love Is a Verb”, there aren’t many tracks on this album with his usual guitar solos. Its much more subdued, focusing on some easy drums and beautiful country-inspired keys and harmonica. Once I realized that this album was actually something with a lot more substance than I originally thought, I also learned that Graham Nash and David Crosby provide vocal support for John on the album’s title track, “Born and Raised”. Prior to learning this, I no longer felt like John was trying to be Neil Young. And for some reason, when I heard Nash and Crosby on the album, it actually made the album even more authentic for me. What a great throw-back to those guys! Its like John is telling everyone how much Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young influenced him and this record, and gives them some really well-deserved recognition. I love it.
So yes. I am a huge fan of this album. Its grown on me and now I love the diversity of tracks, from “Queen of California”, which sets the tone of the album with some country-inspired guitar riffs at the start of the album, to the anthem-like track, “The Age of Worry”, to “Something Like Olivia”, a track that feels to me like John is singing a duet with his guitar. Born and Raised shows us humility and maturity that will no doubt drive Mayer’s musical journey and evolution of his craft.
Pick up this album and listen to it a few times with some good headphones or some good speakers with a nice, full sound. I really think you’ll love this album.