The David Mayfield Parade
Good Man Down
By Al Kaufman
With crystalline vocals reminiscent of a young James Taylor, it would be easy for David Mayfield to write adult contemporary songs and have middle-aged women swoon over him for the rest of his life, but Mayfield isn’t that type of guy. He spent most of his teen years living out of a bus with his family, including little sister Jessica Lea Mayfield, as they toured the country as a sort of bluegrass Partridge Family. He learned bass, guitar and mandolin without ever having a lesson. He joined up with the country band, Cadillac Sky, but wasn’t really feeling the country thing. The Avett Brothers heard one of his songs and persuaded him to go at it on his own. He released The Parade in 2010 to positive reviews. This year’s Good Man Down, fully funded by Kickstarter, is even better.
To begin with, Good Man Down is beautifully packaged, a facet that is often overlooked in today’s digital download age. In addition to the creepy cover depicting a masked Mayfield petting a potentially bodiless cougar’s head, the inner booklet contains a comic book story of the good Mayfield eventually prevailing over his evil doppelganger. Surprisingly, there are very few struggles with self conveyed on the CD. “Was It Only Me” looks back with self-loathing (“I was the shit that nobody gives/ I wonder why I never wondered why”), but, with its classical overtones, is one of the only musical missteps on the record.
Mostly these are love songs, or relationship songs, sung with that voice that makes you believe, but also backed by instruments that make you want to hear them again and again. “Love Will Only Break Your Heart” opens with the strained strings of Jim Vancleve’s violin. Add Seth Avett’s vocals and a story about leaving his hometown for a girl that he can’t keep, and it all makes for a great Americana song.
Vancleve’s violin and Mayfield’s guitar also bring a nice swampy sound to “Another Year.” Kristin Weber’s violin’s prowess takes center stage on “The Willow and the Babe,” a song that swells and soars in the vein of Mumford and Sons. Mayfield duets with Dierks Bentley, whose gravelly voice is a nice counter to Mayfield’s, on the infectious “Tempted.”
In various songs Mayfield incorporates flamenco guitar, programming, and some tremendous fingerpicking on the aptly named “Superfluous Instrumental Reprise.” This is a gorgeously arranged work, full of passion, energy and humor. It is a rare thing; fully-realized and mature, but also fun and great to listen to.
David Mayfield Parade plays Smith’s Olde Bar Friday, April 12th. Grab your tickets below!