Jessica Lea Mayfield moves beyond an abusive relationship with a defiant new album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Music » Concert Preview

Jessica Lea Mayfield moves beyond an abusive relationship with a defiant new album



Ohio-bred singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has made it hard to know just who she is musically. Over the course of four albums she’s reinvented her sound, stumbling between country, soul, hard rock, and boilerplate indie rock. Her diminutive voice—a small, fragile warble—has been the consistent element, but it exhibits a chameleonic effect that seems defined by the musical arrangements. Mayfield’s album Sorry Is Gone (ATO) doesn’t demonstrably alter that pattern, but it reveals a strong, compelling perspective. Its 11 songs detail domestic abuse she endured over several years with harrowing directness—a mixture of resigned exhaustion and steely resistance. The title track is a declaration of independence streaked with bit of reticence as she laughs off, “It’s nice to have a guy around / For lifting heavy things and opening jars,” but revelations in other songs make clear that there’s nothing funny about her suffering. In “Meadow” her mistrust is debilitating, with lyrics that speak to her sense of isolation, while in “Maybe Whatever” she nonchalantly drawls, “The shotgun’s under the futon / This is not my idea of fun.” The record features top-shelf musicians including former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Grails/Om drummer Emil Amos on bass, who help Mayfield craft a flinty, compact attack of hypnotically tuneful shapes and corrosive atmospherics that generously cradle her voice. Here’s hoping that this is the real Jessica Lea Mayfield.   v

Get our free weekly Early Warnings newsletter 💌

It’s Chicago’s essential months-ahead music calendar straight to your inbox.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →