Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Matt Oliver, Mastered by Sam Patlove
There are some people who can't seem to get a handle on what their love is going to do. It's as unpredictable as anything ever could be and, like the alcoholic who's dead to the world and useless most of the day, until they start in on that first bottle of the day, it will perk up when the time's least desirable, or when the most damage can be done. Some people and their love are not right for one another. It's a disjointed match that can't possibly lead to any good. They get sloppy and less picky, the deeper into the night they get and that can only lead to the kinds of country songs that Kent, Ohio, songstress Jessica Lea Mayfield writes. These are the kinds of songs, however, that exhibit less regret than you might imagine them to. They are not riddled with embarrassment or of stray thoughts and an almost despondent or disbelieving head shake. They are beautifully sober reminders that we're not always thinking straight and it's not always such a bad thing to do the things that you're not supposed to be doing. You know they're unwise. You see that immediately and yet you think, "Aw, fuck it. What's so wrong with going to bed with that person anyway? Nobody's getting hurt here." There are those who get hurt in Mayfield's songs - plenty of those sorts of people - but the damage sounds as if it might only be temporary. Those are the wounds that can heal, if only because they were never really all that deep to begin with. Mayfield doesn't simply play one of those girls most likely to be mostly sad and mostly hurt in her songs, but one in real life as well because material this raw and oddly touching doesn't appear out of thin air. These are the scenarios that fit the notion of what you'd expect someone with the idea that love is mischief - not forever - and the heart is the biggest knucklehead and mischief-maker there has ever been. Mayfield sings, "You're the last one I thought I'd have my arms around," and it's that theme that's a pervading one throughout the course of her latest album, "Tell Me," a spectacular collection of heartbreak and innocence. These are looks at love that could only come from someone who knows that she's got so much to learn yet. At the same time, Mayfield writes about these lessons that she's learning in such honest and staggeringly sophisticated ways that it's hard to believe that she's only 22 years old and not 45, going on her third no-good husband. She marvels at the ways that nights pull their strings, pushing people together and encouraging them to do things that they wouldn't have thought about doing a few hours earlier. She sings on "Sometimes At Night," "Sometimes at night/The bodies collide/And I forget who I'm laying next to," but Mayfield makes the dalliance sound like it could end with breakfast in bed, or it might conclude with an awkward gathering up of clothing, purse and coat and a meaningless kiss on the cheek.