Jessica Lea Mayfield is one of those wise-beyond-her-years singer/songwriters who might cause nonbelievers to reconsider reincarnation.
Ruling out the influence of past lives, Mayfield must have either had a string of painful breakups by the tender age of 21, or else she has a powerful imagination and the ability to synthesize real, grownup heartache to a degree so convincing that it doesn't matter whether it really happened.
A native of Kent, Ohio, Mayfield kicked off her recording career with a homemade EP that fell into the lap of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Auerbach helmed both of her full-lengths, enveloping her songs in a sparse yet rich production, particularly her most recent album, "Tell Me," a set dominated by ruminations on relationships that border on the morose.
On lead single "Our Hearts Are Wrong," Mayfield feigns aloof circumspection, but reveals her underlying vulnerability over simple acoustic guitar strumming and a gently thudding Casio beat. She's got a smoky, restrained voice and an appealing Midwestern twang (yeah, Ohio folks can have an honest-to-God drawl; have you ever heard Robert Pollard talk?) Her music is a sort of gothic country-pop that, while not exactly bleak, is pretty dark.
I discovered her a few months back when I got a free single off of a download. It blew me away.
I downloaded the album, Tell Me, to my itunes, and listened to it over and over. Morose and dark is right. She reminds me of David Lynch - imagine she would be peppering his film soundtracks, if their paths ever cross. She is monotonous and lovely. "I'll not let hate be the one to make me naked for you." Love that line.
Her album is an endless source of fantastic lyrics. Here's another good one.
My favorite line in that one is "i did not ask to be born with these eyes, eyes that always speak for my mind."
Anyway, I was ecstatic to learn she was playing at Juanita's in LR last night - haven't been to the new venue downtown. Grabbed a musical friend and went to the show. Ferraby Lionheart opened up - very impressive voice and musician. When she wandered in around 10:30 - my friend said, "There she is."
"No, that's not her." I was expecting the shaggy bleach-blond pixie hair I had seen in all the videos I'd watched on YouTube. This girl had dark brown hair - blunt cut mid-forehead bangs with long uneven tendrils pulled partially unsuccessfully into a ponytail. Turns out it was her. She's a changeling.
The show was incredible. She played until almost midnight - both with a band and solo. Her live voice beat the hell out of her recording. Her sweet, demure "Thank you" after each applause was heart-wrenching, tying a nice bow on the dark, entrancing lyrics. Her occasional banter was intelligent and humorous.
I hope she returns soon.