Jessica Lea Mayfield:
A Sublime Harbinger of Heartbreak

Jessica Lea Mayfield pic #1
Jessica Lea Mayfield. Photo by David McClister.

It's uncanny what one 19-year old Ohioan can do with a deep, sexy drawl and a damp, twangy acoustic guitar -- it's captivating, really. And that's exactly what an Austin audience was at Tuesday night's Jessica Lea Mayfield show at Stubb's: captive to a siren calling from the Nashville city limits.
Ever since her first studio album, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was released in 2008, Mayfield has been literally playing shows non-stop with a rotating cast of musician and bands that help punctuate her endlessly somber folk-rock. Now, headlining a chunk of summer touring on her own, the young songstress is shedding the skin of "breakout act" to become something of a seasoned veteran.
She takes the stage cool and composed and looks way too comfortable as a solo act, taking her time to wring every note and syllable of its full whispered-in-the-bedroom effect. Oddly enough, her minimalist acoustic styling translates well to the stage, riding at length on her abilities as a songwriter, her sense of melody, and her unaffected voice.
Sometimes she's the folk harbinger of heartbreak and at other points she's an alt-country vixen, banging, thrashing, and feeling the raucous, distorted flare-ups with the rest of the band like it was the first time they had played it. Despite the lack of new material (all the songs she played were from her two albums and online), the performance was fresh and authentic.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, as sublime as she comes across on her records, is a provoking artist, showing some road-worn chops at recent performances. She's become a promising addition to the contemporary folk canon (i.e., Avett Bros., Langhorne Slim, Iron and Wine), and she makes it look downright easy. END

Jessica Lea Mayfield is playing Thursday, July 23rd, at Walter's on Washington (4215 Washington; $10), along with Castanets & M.A. Turner.