From the first notes of “Love Will Only Break Your Heart” listeners will know this is a country album through and through. While Mayfield’s music can be, at times, some pretty amazing bluegrass, this album is for the most part “old country.” It’s not really Hank Sr. old, but it’s certainly a lot more along the classic vein than much of what’s “popular” in the country music world today. Fans of The Parade will enjoy this album as yet another bright contribution to his already stellar career. If you’re looking to introduce your friends to him, mention that he’s got an Avett Brothers sound… with a Channing Tatum physique. You can’t go wrong with that.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves now; David Mayfield Parade is indeed a band. They have a sound of classic country, bluegrass, and blues at different points on the album. “From a Dream” has a character that reminds me of 1960s pop music. Maybe it’s background vocals or the overall mix of the song, but it really conjures up a George Jones era of music. The layered violins and timely electric guitar flourishes all work together to make a solid song.
“Another Year” is constructed like a gospel song. More blues than country, the vocal blending early in the song really remind the listener of gospel music. The concept of the song is a bit morbid, saying that essentially in a year he might be dead. As true as that might be, it doesn’t really make for jukebox music. Instead, this is a deep piece that gives the rest of the album a more mature patina. The questioning lyric, “There’s got to be a God and heaven somewhere” shows that this song isn’t just blues for the sake of blues. It’s calling on a deep sense of existential doubt and holds greater power because of it.
The beginning of “Human Cannonball” sounds like a 19th century. Then David Mayfield’s vocals sound like his on “Breath of Love,” making for a beautiful thing. One of the things that makes this song so wonderful is that it balances acoustic solo along with the larger band that comes in later. When he explains sending her love “over telephone lines” Mayfield accomplishes that songwriter’s dream of allowing many listeners to connect with the subject. While it starts with an old-fashioned violin sound, it climaxes with a theatrical grandeur. It also has the best lyric on the whole album, “I’ll paint her face on every lady I meet.” While the genre isn’t blues, that, friends, is a blues lyric.
“The Willow and the Babe” is much more like previous DMP music. It’s also a much more conventional “country” song. It’s got an enjoyable sound, following a much more pop/rock song structure. Then, speaking of mainstream country music, Dierks Bentley joins DMP for “Tempted.” Carrying a little more of a party vibe than the rest of the album, it’s definitely a mainstream radio kind of song. Every time he looks at her… he’s tempted. The cleverest part of the song is the gospel lyric “tempted and tried” from the classic gospel song “Farther Along,” which of course was not originally about the sort of lust described in this song. Nevertheless, this is a jukebox jam.
“Was It Only Me” is what I’d call quintessential David Mayfield. Or, put in other terms, it is Mayfield at his best. Even though his live show is full of incredible guitar and/or mandolin pickin’, he really has an ability to write serious, heartfelt lyrics and compose gorgeous melodies. The balance of strings and sweet melody make this not just a good country song, but a track with crossover appeal. “I couldn’t find my voice within the choir. If I could only get ahold of the old me, I’d throw that box of pictures in the fire. Was it only me or could everybody see things the way that I do now?” This might be the first of his songs that really reminds me of his sister Jessica Lea Mayfield’s songwriting. It’s tragic and dark, but familiar. The aggressive rock ending is a bit out of place, but does a good job capturing the angst present in the lyrics throughout the song.
“Little Blue Car” has some interesting layered lyrics. “I get lost in my hometown, trying to find my way. I wish that things would slow down long enough to stay the same.” He later adds, “Where is the Prince of Peace when you need him? Too many people waiting to believe in something.” This song really hits the listener like a ton of bricks. It might fit best into a sort of “pop folk” category more so than the rest of the album, but has the typical elements of a country song. But musically, I think it’s the most interesting on the album. It really shows off the complex talents of DMP. Social commentary combined with high quality music; this is probably my favorite track on the album.
“Trapped Under the Ice” is a hard driving rock-country song. It’s not exactly “rockabilly” but it’s pretty far from the standard pop country fair. It’s about an ensnaring woman that effectively freezes him in his tracks. The fitting salvo to end the album is “Goodbye Farewell So Long,” a delightfully comforting end to an adventure of an album. While Mayfield is not a balladeer by trade, he certainly makes this song. What makes this a great song is its subtle softness. If this album has a “Breath of Love” track on it, this is it. I like this song so much, that if I were a cover artist this is the one that I’d choose to cover. It’s got elements of love and softness in it that are just… lovely. Color me sentimental, but this is a fantastic way to end the album.
All told this is a no doubt must buy album. If you trust my reviews and recommendations on other artists, then get this one. It has something for everyone. If you’re a country fan, this is sure to make steady rotation for you. If you just like American music, this album represents a journey through a variety of sounds and styles brought to you by David Mayfield’s impressive songwriting.