John Mayer guides us on a journey back from recovery to an unfortunately slow, twangy pace with his new album “Paradise Valley”.
John Mayer’s last album “Born and Raised”, was a little more country than rock n’ roll, and “Paradise Valley” goes much deeper in that direction and at times jumps on the Americana train that is becoming increasingly more mainstream. The opening, upbeat track “Wildfire” is a good example, with its hand-clapping rhythm, tambourine beat, and swampy pedal-steel guitar. The thing that really saves the song is hearing Mayer’s masterful guitar work, something that was noticeably lacking on the last album, and something we thankfully hear more of throughout “Paradise Valley”. A reprise of “Wildfire” with Frank Ocean later in the album, quickly singing/talking through the lyrics with a piano in the background, is interesting, but the track really seems unnecessary in the long run overall.
The album’s first single “Paper Doll”, supposedly Mayer’s answer to Taylor Swift’s “Dear John”, taking the less-is-more approach with a simple guitar line repeating in the background, and the Beatles-esque “I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)” are definite highlights. One of the other few upbeat tracks is a cover of the late guitar legend J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze”, which sticks to the more traditional version, unlike the more popular and recognized rock version by Lynyrd Skynyrd. In my opinion, the stand-out of the album has to be the duet with Katy Perry on “Who You Love”, giving us a flashback on songs like “Wonderland”, showcasing a well-crafted song structure set around a catchy melody, what mainstream listeners would think of when they think of John Mayer.
“Paradise Valley” is good for what it is; slower paced, going in a more country direction mixed with adult contemporary. Although I think fans of Mayer’s earlier work can appreciate the album, and respect the direction he is going, it may leave them yearning for more.