Jessica Lea Mayfield moves beyond an abusive relationship with a defiant new album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Jessica Lea Mayfield moves beyond an abusive relationship with a defiant new album 

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click to enlarge Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Ebru Yildiz

Ohio-bred singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has made it hard to know just who she is musically. Over the course of four albums she’s reinvented her sound, stumbling between country, soul, hard rock, and boilerplate indie rock. Her diminutive voice—a small, fragile warble—has been the consistent element, but it exhibits a chameleonic effect that seems defined by the musical arrangements. Mayfield’s album Sorry Is Gone (ATO) doesn’t demonstrably alter that pattern, but it reveals a strong, compelling perspective. Its 11 songs detail domestic abuse she endured over several years with harrowing directness—a mixture of resigned exhaustion and steely resistance. The title track is a declaration of independence streaked with bit of reticence as she laughs off, “It’s nice to have a guy around / For lifting heavy things and opening jars,” but revelations in other songs make clear that there’s nothing funny about her suffering. In “Meadow” her mistrust is debilitating, with lyrics that speak to her sense of isolation, while in “Maybe Whatever” she nonchalantly drawls, “The shotgun’s under the futon / This is not my idea of fun.” The record features top-shelf musicians including former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Grails/Om drummer Emil Amos on bass, who help Mayfield craft a flinty, compact attack of hypnotically tuneful shapes and corrosive atmospherics that generously cradle her voice. Here’s hoping that this is the real Jessica Lea Mayfield.   v

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