Last month, Ohio native Jessica Lea Mayfield came out with a new album called Tell Me. And at only 21 years old, she has managed to produce a third release that brims with both candid sincerity and sophistication.
I think that it is first and foremost her voice—one moment shaking and vulnerable, the next conversational, the next smoky and wise—that makes every line of these songs so compelling. Her lyrics are fairly straight-forward, usually speaking to some variation of loneliness and/or confusion. But her delivery and melodies make simple observations such as “I waited for the sun, but it never came out” (as sung in “Sometimes at Night”) feel at once heartbreaking and deeply profound.
In terms of production and instrumentation, Tell Me is far more adventurous than either of her two previous releases. Vocals are layered, as distorted or reverb-drenched harmonies of Mayfield’s own voice intermingle with the clear melody lines. Almost smack in the middle of the album, we get “Grown Man,” which kicks off with a catchy synth melody that recurs throughout, sitting comfortably on top of the song’s carnival-inspired keyboard line. The title track, “Tell Me,” features what sounds like a bird-call along with rhythmic, heavy breathing. In “Trouble,” chords changes are announced with the ringing of church bells. Even with all this experimentation, though, Mayfield and producer Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys) keep a consistent vibe throughout the record with grumbling electric guitars and swooping lap-steel lines that ground us in country and rock n’ roll.
You can get a free download of the single (and my personal favorite) from the album, “Our Hearts Are Wrong,” on her website, where you can also stream most of With Blasphemy So Heartfelt. Or, if I’ve already convinced you, click here to go straight to the store to buy either a digital download, a CD, or a vinyl copy of Tell Me.
Happy Ohio Spring, and happy listening!