Paradise Valley by John Mayer

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Release date: 20th August, 2013

John Mayer took an indefinite break from his singing career circa-2011 after being diagnosed with throat granuloma. “Born and Raised” was released in 2012 and went on to be his least popular album although it never cast a shadow of doubt on the potential still left in the young artist.

For those not well-acquainted with the singer/songwriter, John Mayer is an established acoustic rock and blues guitar player and vocalist. Paradise Valley is Mayer’s sixth studio album.

The album has an overall “chill” vibe that is more or less consistent. It also carries some signature nuances of Mayer’s guitar-playing. PV features guest appearances by Frank Ocean and Katy Perry – though providing novelty and a fair bit of curiosity (Katy Perry is Mayer’s ex-flame) fail to make a significant difference to the album’s overall quality.

Every song carries a slightly different mood but most of them fall into the pit they call “country music.” Wildfire is a fun song to start the album with and is based on the famous slap groove. Dear Marie is a typical acoustic number reminiscent of Who Says and the more recent Speak For Me off Born and Raised. Dear Marie is not exactly melancholic but has Mayer singing about the “what ifs” of a past love. Hereon, songs like Waitin’ On The Day  and Paper Doll could probably lull you into sleep. John Mayer covers JJ Cale’s Call Me The Breeze which is a welcome change  in direction. The track is uplifting and is a respectable tribute to the rockabilly/jazz master.

Who You Love is the duet with Katy Perry that I can foresee getting a lot of play on radio and TV. It’s absolutely generic and is an easy listen but not one most Mayer fans would care for much. My main complaint with Paradise Valley is that it has none of the clever lyricism that John Mayer is known for. There seems to be no solid track that stands out. The country overtones are overwhelming and annoying on tracks like Badge and Gun and On The Way Home. Frank Ocean is wasted on the shorter version of Wildfire.

Born and Raised was a strong album in many ways though it’s obvious that the gradual inculcation of country influences started there. Paradise Valley is too country for a musician that has guitar skills  often mentioned in the same breath as Eric Johnson and Buddy Guy. Why country may be a bad sound for Mayer you ask? Most new country music sounds like pop music warmed over. It’ll cause John Mayer to be taken less seriously as a blues and acoustic rock musician. Born and Raised was as far as he could have pushed the country vibe without sounding plain lazy.

Save for a few songs, Paradise Valley is boring and makes you wonder what happened to the guy who did pop music as creative as Half of My Heart and slow blues as stirring as Out Of My Mind. Paradise Valley is severely lacking in moments that make you sit up and pay attention and it seems as if Mayer just didn’t have enough to say on this album.

Rating : 3/5

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