John Mayer solid, but not sizzling on latest album

By RON HARRIS

Associated Press

John Mayer, “The Search for Everything” (Columbia)

Earth’s reigning guitar god, John Mayer, is out with his seventh studio album, “The Search for Everything.” It reveals a calmer artist taking a measured approach to accessible funk-laced songs.

This is a confident album that feels less like an artistic exploration and more like plate of musical comfort food. There are few unexpected turns. The arrangements are solid, if a slight bit predictable.

“Still Feel Like Your Man” is the track that stands out most — the easy-to-feel rhythm is accessible and the lovelorn message is a good fit. Slow breaks give way to a danceable hook and a sunny outlook for Mayer.

“Helpless” continues the newfound funky Mayer approach. Sure, he’s always had the ability to play this tight, chunky guitar stuff, but he’s previously eschewed it for pop and blistering rock explorations. It’s a tight song, but doesn’t reveal the ever-evolving Mayer much for us. “Rosie” might have worked better slower, with more of a torch underneath it. Instead, Mayer opted for the path of least resistance when he might have pushed himself more.

It’s good enough and there are no plum awful tracks. But “The Search for Everything “ gets softer and softer with each song. Too much piano here, not enough guitar there and, before we know it, Mayer is either taking an emotional breather or positioning himself for the “Moana 2: Wedding Band Boogaloo” soundtrack.

His fans will accept, but ultimately shrug at this album. It feels bereft of the songwriter tumult that got him here.

 

Admit it, Brad Paisley is really good at country

By RON HARRIS

Associated Press

Brad Paisley, “Love and War” (Arista Nashville)

When you can namecheck the UFC and Zebco fishing reels in the lead track to your 11th studio album, “Love And War,” you are probably Grammy Award-winning country music machine Brad Paisley and you can do no wrong.

Paisley is the salve when someone throws a curveball at country. He’s that dependable voice of bro-country. All of the familiar icons are here: beer cans, pickup trucks, lip-kissing and jobs you have to get to. But the hidden secret is that Paisley can play the paint off a guitar and get the biggest names in the business to sing along with him on his strongest tracks.

Sir Mick Jagger helps him out with stellar vocals on “Drive of Shame,” a raucous twang of a track. John Fogerty weighs in on the album’s title song, “Love And War,” a soaring call-out to take care of America’s veterans when they come home broken.

Resistance is futile. If you like country, then there are a couple of Paisley songs you love. If you’re new to the genre, he’s an easy way in because he surrounds his music with everyman themes and solid musicianship.

“Love And War” has tracks that will burn up hot country spots on the radio dial and cement his place as the most dependable act in the business. The mix-down throughout is a tad flat, but this is meant to be heard in a bar, in a truck, on the road and on the go.

You can hate bro-country, but don’t hate Brad Paisley for being the best at it.