Here’s the way I see it – Mayer does live up to his hype, even just a casual listen will confirm that. He seems to have absorbed the Motown vocal style the way a Bounty paper towel would hold water if you threw it in Barry Gordy’s swimming pool. He’s got Smokey’s smooth and Marvin’s marvelous locked down tight.
Here’s the way I hear it – Motown always lived with a certain degree of schizophrenia; it wanted to be soulful without the sweat. If you like your soul with some grit(s) you better head on down to Memphis.
Hits-ville, however, did have a secret weapon – da Funk Brothers. One small frame house in Detroit was for decades the workplace of giants. Everybody from Joe Messina and his funked up Tele to James Jamerson who’s Bass could literally rip your guts out and who has been called the “world’s greatest Bass player” performed magic there. A complete list of FB’s is a who’s who of a musical era.
Simple formula – take talented urban teenage singers – smooth out the wrinkles and take them uptown. Mix in the greatest studio band in the world and crank out Hits.
Believe me – I get it. Mayer is a unique reincarnation of the Golden Age and he’s talented enough to make his mark on contemporary Soul. You can hear why the label only had to hear a couple of tunes to sign him. What I’m not hearing from Mayer Hawthorn and The County is the necessary musical heft, there’s not enough bacon, onion and pepper mixed in these collard greens.
Rock Bottom Line – Motown will never come back but you can buy Mayer. As they used to say when a new king ascended to the throne – The King is dead! Long live Mayer Hawthorne. Rating – 3 Guns