Jessica Lea Mayfield “Sorry Is Gone” (ATO Records, 2017)

There are times when great pieces of music can be produced out of the most unlikely source material. As, in her own words, the poisonous marriage of Jessica Lea Mayfield unfolded before her eyes, she started to write lyrics that began to reclaim her life as she reflected on years of domestic abuse. As the songs took shape they acted as therapy and the end product is a searingly open and honest piece of work.

If that all sounds like an album to be wary of then it shouldn’t. While some of the tracks are wrapped up in some heavy sounding guitar grunge these are countered by other beautifully crafted numbers where the lyrics are delivered in a more melodic fashion. Perhaps these two very distinct sounds work shouldn’t work together but it is to Mayfield’s credit that she has pulled this off to great effect.

The two opening songs Wish You Could See Me Now and Sorry Is Gone act as a microcosm of that approach. At under three minutes the crashing opener is followed quickly by the wonderful title track which contains what just may be one of the great lyrics of the year ‘It’s nice to have a man around, for lifting things and opening jars, should we really let them in our beds, chain ‘em to a little house outside.’

This dazzling start continues with a brilliant guitar solo and crashing drums on Meadow while yet more acutely unique lyrics assault the senses with the opening line of Maybe Whatever ‘The shotgun’s under the futon, this is not my idea of fun.’

Mayfield has had an unconventional lifestyle that included playing in her family’s bluegrass band at the age of eight and the release of her first album when she was fifteen. Sorry Is Gone is album number four and Mayfield has still not reached the age of thirty. She has already worked with Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers on an album of Elliot Smith songs and he reappears here amongst Mayfield’s musical co-conspirators alongside drummer Steve Shelley, bassist Emil Amos and Cameron Deyell on guitars.

If she makes anyone feel uncomfortable with the level of honesty she projects on this very personal project then Jessica Lea Mayfield is making no apologies. As she states on the pared-back acoustic track Safe 2 Connect 2, Mayfield has ‘been through hell, there’s no tellin’ what might happen in the future, all I can do is be thankful for each moment that’s my own.’ She may have been driven by her own need for musical therapy but, in so doing, Mayfield has delivered a brilliant slice of Americana.

Author: Peter Churchill

Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana.
Perfect Day – early morning round of golf, afternoon at Dean Court watching AFC Bournemouth, evening gig at a cosy smallish venue with a pint and a packet of scratchings.

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