For Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sometimes Sanity Is The Better Option | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : Programs

Filed Under:

For Jessica Lea Mayfield, Sometimes Sanity Is The Better Option

Play associated audio

Jessica Lea Mayfield possesses a delicate singing voice that she likes to contrast with her crunching guitar riffs. For her new album Make My Head Sing..., she's working with drummer Matt Martin and her bassist, producer and husband Jesse Newport to create a roughed-up, often blues-based sound that lends her lyrics vehemence.

You can hear, in the midst of all this rock heaviness, the influence of the bluegrass band Mayfield was a part of when she was growing up. She sings with an unadorned plaintiveness that's very much in the tradition of bluegrass vocalizing. It's the opposite of a conversational style — Mayfield's singing implores, declaims, expresses yearning, hope and a lack of hope. Sometimes her voice and the melody achieve a shimmering beauty, the sound of music coming from far away, floating through your mind, as it does in "Standing in the Sun."

There are moments on Make My Head Sing... that reach back to the sound of rock music made before Mayfield was born. In a song such as "I Wanna Love You," the guitar sound has a psychedelic folk-rock vibration, which animates a vocal that's all intense monotone — it's the kind of singing you heard from 1960s one-hit-wonders like the Standells and the Electric Prunes. Mayfield makes you feel as though she's pouring everything she's got into the song; that when it's through, she'll have nothing left.

Make My Head Sing... is an album of contradictions. It's full of unreliable narrators who sometimes revel in jealousy, willful insanity and drugs even as her voice and the music suggest that sanity is a better option. The music is heavy, but it soars. Her guitar riffs thud and slam, but they maintain a propulsive forward motion. Her voice frequently seems on the verge of getting buried in the mix, but then producer Newport pulls her vocal out and up so that it quivers over the melody. The tension in all these contradictions is what gives Jessica Lea Mayfield's music its blunt power, and its subtlety.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Night At The Fiestas' Spins Stories Of Faith And Family

Kirstin Valdez Quade's debut book of short fiction is inspired by her family and its long history in the "romanticized" region of northern New Mexico.
NPR

Not Just Sugary-Sweet, Hard Cider Makes A Comeback

Cider is the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage in the United States. Much of that growth is driven by big industrial producers, but smaller cider-makers are looking for a larger bite of the apple.
NPR

Nigerian President Faces Tough Reelection Campaign

Nigerians head to the polls Saturday to vote for their new president. The incumbent Goodluck Jonathan faces former military leader, Muhammadu Buhari, who says he's tough on security and corruption.
NPR

App That Aims To Make Books 'Squeaky Clean' Draws Ire From Edited Writers

Clean Reader — an app designed to find, block and replace profanity in books — has drawn considerable criticism from authors. This week, makers of the app announced they would no longer sell e-books.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.