Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
essica Lea Mayfield presumably will get to play to a good amount more people next week when she hits one of the stages at the Bonnaroo music fest. The 30 people showing up at this club was on the small side to say the least, but that should not have had anything to do with the quality of the music she's put forth.
The Kent, Ohio native came under the wing of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced "With Blasphemy So Heartfelt," which came out last fall, her second release after a 6-song EP came out when she was only 15. Mayfield, in turn, has been receiving more and more attention for her blend of country, roots, a bit of folk and more rocking sounds that doesn't easily fit into a musical box.
The songs are standout. They have a mesmerizing effect - quite easy to get into and haul in the listener. The songs tend to be about a lot of aspects of love with titles like I Can't Lie to You, Love, We've Never Lied and Hold You Close. Mayfield grew most country on the closing two songs of the evening, including Fade Away, both from her "White Lies EP."
Mayfield mixed things up enough to keep the interest flowing. Backing vocals here and there from brother David (a member of bluegrass band Cadillac Sky) and drummer Anne Lillis on I Can't Lie to You, Love worked nicely. David Mayfield came out on another song while sister Jessica was doing an otherwise solo acoustic stint for just a tad of backing vocals. Guitarist Richie Kirkpatrick let loose on guitar, sometimes twangy, sometimes steely, sometimes atmospheric. There was not a tremendous amount of diversity, a bit more would have helped, but there was not so little as to make for a dull evening.
As a performer, Mayfield has room for growth. Mayfield tends to sing in a low voice without a lot of color to it. She maintains an intensity about her (holding notes on Greater Heights, for example, helped achieve that) and cracked a smile exactly once during the entire 70 minutes. She talks to the audience, although the comments tended to be of "the next song is..." variety.
At 19, Mayfield earns slack in that department, especially given the quality of the songs she brings to the table. Mayfield is not a fully formed artist, of course, but she certainly is on the right path no matter how many people showed up.