Some Tequila In Your Coffee
Four years after releasing the hugely popular The Search for Everything, John Mayer draws together singles he has been releasing over the interim years on his eighth solo album, Sob Rock (16 July, 2021; Columbia Records).
Before exploring his latest offering it is worth reminding ourselves just how far Mayer has travelled since his early days in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His debut album Room For Squares in 2001 went five times platinum, while Heavier Things (2003), Battle Studies (2009), and Born and Raised (2012) also racked up enormous sales. Mayer has won seven Grammy awards, but as if that wasn’t enough he has been guitarist and singer for Dead & Company – comprising former members of Grateful Dead - since 2015, playing in stadiums to millions of fans. Oh, and he also hosts tv shows, writes and does comedy spots in his down time…
On Sob Rock Mayer has teamed up with percussionist Lenny Castro (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Toto) bassist Pino Palladino, and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes (Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Toto), which unsurprisingly results in some of the songs sounding a lot like the soft rock megagroup that produced songs like Africa, Rosanna and Hold The Line. Further, singer-songwriter Maren Morris contributes her talents, while Mayer decided to produce the album in Los Angeles with Don Was of funk rock band Was (Not Was).
The 10-song, 38-minute album might have a retro-sound but it also draws on a mix of genres such as country, bluegrass, soul and new wave.
Recent single release Last Train Home kicks off the album with some soaring backing vocals and fine guitar work. Mayer plays one of his PRS Signature guitar on the video, which was directed by Cameron Duddy and Harper Smith. It’s shamelessly 1980s, and a great song: “Pretend someone made a record in 1988 and shelved it,” he explained, “and it was just found this year.”
New Light, co-written with Ernest Wilson, was released as a single in May 2018 but the video for this hugely catchy tune looks like it was made during the pandemic. Wandering around in casual clothing in front of zoom-like background clips, Mayer at one point pretends he is in an empty concert hall; what could be more prescient than that?
Wild Blue (or ‘the fish tank song’, as many know it) recalls the Alan Parsons Project and also features a memorable solo on the six-string as it ends. I Guess I Just Feel Like on the other hand allows Mayer to share his vulnerabilities and doubts. “Nobody’s honest, nobody’s true, Everyone’s lyin’ to make it on through,” he sings, before the lyric takes a twist: “I guess I just feel like I’m the same way too.”
Mayer has suggested the record might be considered ‘balm for a troubled era’. “There’s a security-blanket aspect about that sound that reminds me of a safer time,” he said. The album immediately feels like comfort food with its retro feel, but delve beyond this and you will find plenty of wry humour and spice. As Mayer himself sings on the penultimate track: “So come on over, And wake me up, Put some of your tequila, In my coffee cup […] Carry me away, Carry me away.”