(Columbia Records) 2 1/2 stars out of 4)
John Mayer didn’t want to create a “costume” record, he said in a recent interview with the newsletter Blackbird Spyplane. With “Sob Rock,” Mayer said, he sought to update the sounds of his childhood — he mentions U2, Lionel Richie, Paula Abdul and other late-’80s stalwarts — to the present day, a reupholstering of sorts. What he hoped to do, he says, was to “grind the influences into a fine enough dust that you can make a new paste out of it.”
Mayer mostly meets that standard on “Sob Rock,” a 10-track album that features songs released as early as 2018. The songs are all neat, emotionally legible — you never have to guess how he’s feeling — and the guitar solos, keyboards and drums almost universally hearken back to the period Mayer is harvesting for inspiration.
If there are songs that sound “costumed,” it’s the opener, “Last Train Home,” and the oddly named (and, it must be said, kind of putrid) “Why You No Love Me.”
But when Mayer sounds like himself — like someone who found something contemporary that he could generate by diving into the archives — he’s as good as ever, an extremely talented songwriter whose thoughtful dirtbag appeal is as apparent as ever.
“New Light” is a fantastic track with pep in the step, and “Wild Blue” sounds like the best song The Wallflowers never made. When you hear Mayer just plain having fun, like he does on “Guess I Just Feel Like” and “Carry Me Away,” you’re having a good time along with him.
— Jesse Bernstein
Tedeschi Trucks Band featuring Trey Anastasio
‘Layla Revisited (Live at LOCKN’)’
- 3 stars out of 4
Although initially a flop, Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” is now considered a classic blues-rock guitar jam album, starring Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, who moonlighted from the Allman Brothers Band to join the Dominos in the studio for a few days.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band performed the complete “Layla” for a 2019 appearance with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio at Virginia’s LOCKN’ Festival after the offhand suggestion of a friend. But the choice seems predestined.
Guitarist Derek Trucks is the nephew of original Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. He was named after Derek and the Dominos. He did stints with both the Allman Brothers and in Eric Clapton’s band. Guitarist and singer Susan Tedeschi, his musical and marital partner, was born the day Layla was released on Nov. 9, 1970.
While the original album featured a lean band of five, here we get 14, including horns, backing singers, two drummers and four hotshot guitarists, with Doyle Bramhall II joining Tedeschi, Trucks and Anastasio.
It’s a performance for lovers of dueling guitar jams and extended solos — it’s nearly twice the length of the original double album. Tedeschi’s powerful voice and the horns expand the character of many of the songs (Anastasio shares lead vocals on many tracks). But the album is all about the guitars.
— Steve Klinge