The fifth album by the once pop, turned blues, musician and songwriter saw yet another shift in genre for Born and Raised. Always in media scrutiny after some incredibly bold and unfortunate interviews once upon a time, he seems to have taken his time to write an album as impressive as his bluesy Continuum, with the underwhelming Battle Studies a great disappointment. Adopting a folk, country rock vibe with strong Americana influences, this could well be his most consistent album to date. There are no weak tracks, but unfortunately there is also a lack of very strong tracks. This is largely due to the strong lack of guitar in the album, and although his vocals are great as usual, the signature (incredible) guitar work by Mayer on Continuum made the album.
“Something Like Olivia” is a highlight, yet another Mayer song about longing after someone (or something). Stuttering guitar is the perfect accompaniment for a smooth-flowing song, with the notable lyric, “But if Olivia herself were at my door, I’d have to say I’d let her in.” The album’s best track is the narrative, “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”, which features some of Mayer’s best songwriting to date. A positive (or negative, depending on how you look at it) message is carried through, and is a nice change of pace and musicianship within the album.
“A Face to Call Home” is one of the better vocal performances on the album, showcasing his tone and natural singing voice to its fullest. A catchy chorus and relatable lyrics about that perfect someone, it’s a definite standout. “Born and Raised (Reprise)” is the closer, and with its heavy, southern influenced vibe, is one of the most ear-catching tracks off the album. This hints on an even more country influenced follow-up album, which could find some success if made with more consistency.
I have to admit, I do prefer Continuum, mainly due to the fact it had some amazing guitar work. Noting the fact that Mayer is one of this generation’s most talented musicians, it seems a waste to not highlight it. In saying that, this is a solid album. There may be no very strong Mayer tracks on Born and Raised, but there are enough to satisfy fans, and due to the genre shift, could entice new listeners. It’s obvious he can make great music, one listen to “Covered in Rain” proves that, so we’ll just have to wait for that one, great album, whenever that occurs.
Top Songs – “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967”, “A Face to Call Home”, “Born and Raised (Reprise)”