John Mayer is a blues-rock musician with a voice that the females love. Over the years, Mayer has evolved his image as a crafty songwriter and proven he can “rock it” jam band style with a touch of blues and jazz—kind of similar to Dave Matthews without the Band.
“Paradise Valley” has a pleasing, timeless feel to it. This album creates an intimacy that feels as if Mayer is playing in your living room. As stated in the New York Times, it is meant to represent his staking a claim to maturity, both as a musician and as a person.
He does that by acknowledging past wrongs. Mayer describes himself as a “runaway train,” “a feather in a hurricane,” and he nostalgically states, “that peaceful wandering free I used to know.”
Eleven songs that hit the mark in “Paradise Valley” are more lyrically restrained. Musically, this album is bigger, more accomplished, and more approachable.
In “Waitin’ on the Day,” John Mayer turns to stability. He melodiously states that he is not running away but rather holding on for the moment “When you’ll love me all the way….when you hang your things and stay.”
Moreover, this song goes hand-in-hand with “I Will Be Found.” This song has relatable lyrics to any audience who has seemed a little “Lost at Sea”:
“It doesn’t matter where you roam / When no one’s left to call you home / I might have strayed a bit too far / I’m counting all the moonlight stars”
In this album, Mayer collaborates with Frank Ocean on “Wildfire,” where he opens up with a striking image of a woman jumping from the Eiffel Tower while Mayer harmonizes in an upbeat tempo.
He also collaborates with his current girlfriend Katy Perry in “Who You Love.” It has the feel of an old soul classic featuring a nearly liquid Mayer guitar strum. The song shows an artist both relaxed and well practiced.
The man’s fingers have seldom seemed so nimble. As for Katy, the soft-rock arrangement is warm and she is less “shouty” than on many of her own songs.
The closer, “On the Way Home,” describes the return home after what seems like a pretty awesome summer vacation. In my opinion, this is a good ending to an album that has Mayer reminiscing from high school days to his life now.
In “On the Way Home,” Mayer sings, “But just remember on the way home that you were never meant to feel alone. It takes a little while, but you’ll be fine. Another good time coming down the line.”
“Paradise Valley” presents a suitable compromise between the tones of Mayer’s past and the twangy tracks from his last album “Born and Raised.” Tracks from “Paradise Valley” like the song “Dear Marie,” maintain some of that old country inspiration, but they fade behind other tunes that convey John Mayer’s true talent.
– Merdith Shardae Jernigan, Contributing Writer