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Review: John Mayer ‘raised’ the bar, went back to roots

With the release of his first album in three years, “Born and Raised,” John Mayer proves that some of his best work might still be hiding up his sleeve.

Never one to shy away from expressing his own insecurities and internal battles through song, Mayer’s fifth full-length studio album revisits the now familiar topics of loneliness, personal growth and, of course, romance.

This time, however, Mayer presents his classic self-reflection with a newfound sincerity and maturity.

Along with his return to music, “Born and Raised” marks Mayer’s return to the spotlight after packing his bags for Montana following a controversial article published by Playboy Magazine in 2010. In the interview, Mayer crudely discussed his sexual relationship with ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson and shocked supporters and critics alike with his use of the n-word.

On the lead single “Shadow Days,” Mayer delves into the soul-searching he has accomplished since the audience last heard from him. On the track Mayer sings, “I’m a good man with a good heart / Had a tough time, got a rough start / But I finally learned to let it go.”

Filled with mellow vocals and a distinctly folk rhythm, “Born and Raised” showcases Mayer’s ability to span the genres of pop, blues and laid-back Americana.

Perhaps the album’s best blend of style comes on the reflecting piece “The Age of Worry.” Infusing soft background vocals over consistent acoustic guitar riffs, the song combines Mayer’s past and present, both as a lyricist and musician. 

The most powerful song on the album, “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967,” brings Mayer back to his narrative songwriter roots. An elegant song about a husband who envisions a different life for himself, Mayer breaks away from selling his own life’s journey and focuses instead on his role as a third-person storyteller.

With a sound reminiscent to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, the cowboy hat and country-crooner gimmick Mayer portrays shouldn’t discourage fans from giving “Born and Raised” a listen. A little outside the lines, sure, but sometimes things are just a little better on the other side.

 

Grade: A-

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