It dawned on me while listening to the new John Mayer new album that all his previous albums had a musical theme. Room for Squares was his pop album. Heavier Things was his blues album. Continuum was his soul album. And Battle Studies was his crappy concept album about dating and breaking up with Jennifer Aniston. It is clear listening to Born and Raised that he has entered his folk phase. The album even features about as much harmonica as electric guitars. Most of the album is just him as part of a four piece band with an occasional guest like trumpeter Chris Botti, violinist Sara Watkins formerly of Nickel Creek, and David Crosby and Graham Nash (sans Stills or Young) doing backing vocals.
Of course one of the main reasons Mayer may have retreated to the frozen country of Montana was that his stupid mouth got him in trouble time and time again in the promotion of his last album when talking about his racist genitalia and sexual napalm. When first single Shadow Days hit, it sounding like the singer was apologizing for saying too much again when he opens the song with the lines, “Did you know that you could be wrong and swear you’re right” and adds in the chorus, “I’m a good man with a good heart. Had a tough time, got a rough start.”
It turns out repentance is a big theme of Born and Raised. On If I Ever Get Around to Living It is hard not to think he is talking to himself when he asks somebody, “When you gonna wise up boy?” And I may not be a shrink, but Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey (which is followed by water, water, water, sleep) kind of sounds like a lyrical excuse for his spoken words. Then in the verses, there are lines like “The only deal I ever signed, the old devil drew a dotted line. The stage was set, the words were mine, I’m not complaining” which is followed by “it’s just a phase, it’s not forever (but I still might have a ways to go).”
Mayer saves his biggest regrets for the title track, a heartbreaking tale of his parents dissolving marriage which is worthy of the country sound where he laments it is “such a waste to grow up lonely.” But it is not all doom and gloom because the album actually ends with the Born and Raised (Reprise) is a bit more optimistic in a sitting around the firepit and singing a song with your friends at the end of the day kind of way. Born and Raised was a nice diversion into folk, hopefully John Mayer’s rock opus is coming next.
Song to Download – Queen of California
Born and Raised gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.