Kent, Ohio’s Jessica Lea Mayfield was heard earlier this year on “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be,” the closing song on The Black Keys’ Attack & Release. Mayfield played backup to Key’s frontman Dan Auerbach, and gave a preview of the magic these two conjure when they collaborate. With Auerbach producing and providing many of the instruments, they recorded the album over a two-year period at his home studio in Akron.
Musically Mayfield touches on a mixture of folk, country, and blues. She sings like Mazzy Star while her vocals come close to the Cat Power level on the somber scale. However, from the first song it will be her lyrics tugging at your heartstrings. With songwriting this intense it is quite possible that she has suffered more heartbreak than anyone should at a mere 19-years-of-age.
Kicking off the first song, “Kiss Me Again,” she strums on her acoustic guitar and sings, “You got me where you want me, but I ain’t all there. My head is torn, my brain is fried, and I’m standing right here.” With that the drums and bass kick in, and it’s notable that her brother David Mayfield plays an upright bass for the album adding to the homegrown sense of the album.
Though Auerbach’s presence is heard and felt throughout the album, it is most strongly evident on “I Can’t Lie To You, Love.” His wailing guitar bleeds into the track as the perfect backdrop for Mayfield’s crooning. It’s a great companion to their duet on The Black Keys’ album; both songs about realizing that your significant other no longer finds you so significant. And if you needed another example of the pain found in her lyrics, look no further than the chorus of this song: “But I can’t lie to you, love. And I can’t lift my head up. And I can’t sleep knowing you want nothing to do with me.”
Even when it isn’t all heartbreak, as with “I’m Not Lonely Anymore” and “The One That I Love Best,” the songs still take a melancholy tone making you wonder if Mayfield is even capable of feeling any sense of happiness. At least for one song Mayfield takes a turn to address the end of a different type of relationship, this being the loss of faith on the track “Bible Days.” The album takes its title from this song in which she questions a god that tests so mercilessly.
It’s hard to get excited over an album so rooted in sadness, but Jessica Lea Mayfield proves on With Blasphemy So Heartfelt that she has the songwriting skill and soul power that could one day match the aforementioned Chan Marshall. After all the crying is over we have been treated to a more than solid debut, that despite it’s mood never becomes boring or trite. We actually feel and care for Mayfield’s words; something that every singer/songwriters attempts, but at which so many fail. That in itself is a major accomplishment.
Highlight Track: “I Can’t Lie To You, Love”
Rating: 8 /10
THIS REVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON STEREO SUBVERSION.