Bentley's Bandstand: Jessica Lea Mayfield, Tell Me

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Tell Me, Nonesuch Records

This is a singer-songwriter who has been ready to explode for a few years. And while Tell Me isn’t Jessica Lea Mayfield’s first album, it’s the one that makes the time right for her close-up. Much of that is due to the grizzly guitars of producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. He has a sound that is as strong as Mayfield’s distinctive voice, one you can fall in love with on first listen and then realize a lifetime is still too short to spend hearing the young woman sing. She spent her early years touring with the family bluegrass band, which automatically makes her practically a party of one with that kind of experience. When the Ohio teenager struck out on her own, there were no compromises or cutesy nods to commerciality. Mayfield went for the heart and hit the bullseye. Now that she’s street-legal, it’s time to get busy with business and become a star.

The album’s eleven songs could easily do that. Her voice is like no one but herself, always a plus, and these songs have the spooky edge of a comfortable haunted house, one that you wouldn’t mind living in as long as there are locks on the doors. There are all kinds of butchered relationships, love dripping with blood and hearts stomped into the ground running through the words, but isn’t that what young love is all about? To hear Miss Mayfield sing, it’s like she was born to go through the fire and find a way to the other side. Mayffield is more than ready to suffer for all of us, and for that the singer deserves our undivided devotion.

Look at Jessica Lea Mayfield as the human antidote to Lady Gaga, and discover someone who, at 21, is ready to find a way out of the musical morass threatening the world. With Auerbach’s wild guitar ripping through the sound, there is no way not to be touched way down deep by someone who no doubt spent a thousand nights alone dreaming up things she would someday share with the world. You can feel the ache of dark nights and unspoken pain as surely as people dream of a better day. This is music to wrap around your soul. Accept no substitutes.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.