By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Jessica Lea Mayfield was 19 when she released her 2008 full-length debut, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt. The album expanded upon the dark, claustrophobic emotions of 2005's White Lies EP, which offered early proof of her ample, surprisingly mature talent. Between her Appalachia-tinged vocal twang and the spare, harrowing lope, the release suggested Gillian Welch summering with Will Oldham in a backwoods cabin, picking at festering sores every morning and forging new ones each night. Her earnest plainspoken style eschewed melodrama for near-stoic confession bypassing adolescent angst for resignation and bitter indifference.
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The album was produced by her former Kent, Ohio neighbor Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), who also produced her February-released latest, Tell Me, for the Keys' label, Nonesuch. It pushes her prior parched Americana to the background in favor of an adventurous blend of blues, indie rock and even occasional synthetic beats and keyboards that hint at British dark wave. It's bolstered by a canny mix of textures — from the ringing bell that backs the sweet fingerpicked melody, "Trouble," to the skittering electronic squall abetting Auerbach's skronky solo on "Somewhere in Your Heart." And even while still darkly hued, Mayfield's even managed to find "Blue Skies Again," on this powerful, dramatically richer and more eclectic release.
Impressive stuff from a 21-year-old.
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