When a band is limited to guitar, bass and drums, the results can be rather dreary and one-dimensional. That's not the case with Jessica Lea Mayfield, who strikes gold working under her own steam after a period under the tutelage of Black Keys man Dan Auerbach, producer of her early material.
The 24-year-old's background is primarily in roots and bluegrass, and she played in her family band from the age of eight. But Mayfield's third album charts new territory in more than one way. Grunge and rock hovered in the background during her teens, but Make My Head Sing marks the first time she has indulged her love of grunge in any meaningful way.
Many of these 12 tracks are short enough to snap their jaws before making a languorous retreat. They encompass wonderfully woozy, off-kilter compositions, the majority of them infused with the spirit of grunge that sounds like Mayfield grew up in Seattle instead of smalltown Ohio.
Slow, sludgy basslines abound on Oblivious and Pure Stuff, but their heaviness is tempered by the blitheness of Mayfield's wispy vocals. The brawny opening riff on Anything You Want could be the intro to an Alice in Chains or Pearl Jam song. I Wanna Love You and the chiming guitar of Do I Have the Time are altogether more upbeat, hung together by a sense of quirky melody and peculiar lyrics. On the former, Mayfield ominously intones such lines as "I have visions in my brain that are different from the truth" in a manner last heard in Twin Peaks circa 1990.
The sense of intrigue throughout means that you really don't know what's coming next – which is half the allure. In any case, it makes for a deeply satisfying record. jessicaleamayfield.com
Download: I Wanna Love You, Do I Have the Time