If you don’t know who Jessica Lea Mayfield is then pay attention, because hers is a name you are likely to be hearing a heck of a lot in the future. Fans of The Blacks Keys will perhaps already know of her, as she was the first guest voice ever to be heard on one of their records at the age of just 17. Tell Me is the second album from the now 21-year-old country singer from Kent, Ohio and, just like her acclaimed debut, is produced by Dan Auerbach, who also performs some vocal duties as well as playing moog and guitar.
With her tendency to deliver bleak, dark yet beautiful songs at such a tender age, Mayfield comes across like Laura Marling’s country-lovin’ American cousin. Her melancholic words certainly have a similar weight and weariness as she is perpetually trailed by ominous storm clouds. "I can't let you fill my head with lies," she sighs on Grown Man. Her words may be cynical, but they are contrasted interestingly by some lovely, melodic country-folk-indie tunes, not least the raw guitars and thumping drums of opener, I'll Be The One That You Want Someday. When light does occasionally shine through the cracks in what is a largely dark and bruised album, it leaves a lovely glow. "This heart of mine is ready for the Spring... suddenly I can see blue skies again," she sings hopefully on Blue Skies.
Tell Me is shrouded in beautiful, dark emotional resonance, and the fact that it was authored by someone so young makes it an even more impressive achievement. A marvellous record.
Review by Rob Townsend