By Isaac Harrelson
TRY! is John Mayer’s first live album, and his first LP released by the John Mayer Trio outfit with Mayer on guitar/vocals, Pino Palladino on bass, and Steve Jordan on drums/background vocals.
It is Mayer’s attempt to create separation between him and the singer/songwriter heartthrob image his first commercially successful records created due to tracks such as “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and “Daughters.”
It opens with the track “Who Did You Think I Was,” a fast, chaotic blues tune that addresses the point he’s trying to make head-on with lyrics, such as, “Am I the one who plays the quiet songs? Am I the one who turns the babes on,” all while being juxtaposed by the angry, distorted wailing of a blues/rock guitar solo backed by a raucous drum groove.
The next two songs continue on this trend of fast-paced rock, including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’ “Wait Until Tomorrow,” a funky, technical tune that shows off his guitar chops. He slows it down, debuting two new songs from his next album, Continuum. “Gravity” and “Vultures” both stay in the realm of blues, but show a more sensitive and emotional side from the songwriter.
“Gravity” specifically sounds like an homage to the great king of the blues, B.B. King, with its slow, emotive guitar riff and solo, and that signature sound that gives the guitar the timbre of a singer’s voice.
The next four songs explore a sort of groove based middle ground between the two opposing styles of blues showcased in the first half of the record, specifically in an eight-minute jam-band rendition of Ray Charles’ hit “I’ve Got A Woman” that is heavily groove/funk based.
By the 10th song, however, Mayer finally relents and plays his singer songwriter hit “Daughters,” as if to admit to the crowd that, whether he likes it or not, that genre is still his calling card of sorts. To cap off the show, he launches into the title track “Try,” a return to the bombastic, high-powered blues rock of the opening songs.
Overall I greatly enjoyed the album. I appreciated the fact that Mayer made an effort to show his fans the genre of music that made him first pick up a guitar. His tributes to Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix were distinctly his own style, but never took away from the things that made those songs great originally.
I love the blues genre. It’s responsible for paving the way for so much of today’s music, and it’s an incredibly personal and emotional style of music.
Mayer also shows how good of a musician he is live, as this album has no overdubbing, studio correction, auto-tune, etc. It’s an incredible performance and a fantastic listen to anyone who appreciates good musicianship.