John Mayer is a shape shifting singer/guitarist. He’s gone from being a geek strummer to a lover-man troubadour to a folkified balladeer to a blues rock guitar hero. And now he’s a post-granola Dead head.
One thing is certain, he’s restless and versatile. Mayer’s restlessness results in some sincere sounds. His recent albums, Born and Raised and Paradise Valley aren’t hit factories but reflect a laid-back world view that generated folky organic songs. His identity as a Laurel Canyon pastoralist is an unlikely persona that brings things to The Search for Everything (Wave One).
Mayer’s role in the Grateful Dead offshoot, Dead and Company, has been a creative jolt that feeds into his lyrical, freeform style and it’s been fruitful, gaining legions of new fans from the Dead’s undead army.
The Search for Everything points further west for Mayer, all the way to San Francisco and the Bay Area. The first track, Moving On and Getting Over, delivers on the promise of his Dead apprenticeship with floating rhythms, hopeful lyrics and thoughtful guitar work. This tasteful song is filtered through the lens of another legendary Bay Area stoner, Sly Stone, detectable in the song’s pushes and stoptime breaks.
Changing is familiar ground for Mayer, a selfless piano ballad about, you guessed it – change, made memorable by a sweet guitar break. The peaceful air that establishes itself continues on through the next songs and is contagious.
James Taylor’s mellow vibe is strong on You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me, a standout Mayer vocal spot notable for its gentle delivery. It’s an egoless set of music from a former guitar hero and showboater.
Mayer’s music seems to be moving towards western jams and resonant soft rock and generally expressive song platforms. He immerses himself fully in whatever sound he’s chasing.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases every Friday for The Morning Star.