Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: John Mayall

John Mayall. (Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fasano)
John Mayall. (Photo: Courtesy of Jeff Fasano)

Bluesman John Mayall wants people to find a way to care so badly that he named his last album, released in 2015, Find A Way To Care.

“We hope that people will listen to and say ‘Oh that’s a good point and I as an individual can do something about’,” Mayall said. “Or at least be aware of what’s going on in the world. You make a comment about the world and hope that it will brush off on people and their ideas.”

Mayall will be encouraging the Washington, D.C. region to find a way to care when he rolls into to town for a March 15 show. He’ll be playing songs from the album, a mix of covers and originals, at the Hamilton.

The album, which is Mayall’s second release with the record label Forty Below, starts off with a rousing rendition of Don Robey’s “Mother in Law Blues.” Featured prominently on the track are Mayall’s husky voice and hilarious lyrics that give the album a great kick to start out with.

“When I put an album together I try to mix up the moods of the tracks as we go along,” Mayall said. “We just felt that it was a good opening track…we wanted to start off with an impact and keep that thing going right to the end.”

Stand up horns and Mayall’s genius keyboard playing were intentionally featured throughout the album, each instrument getting its own chance to shine on most of the tracks. Eric Corne, the producer of the album and owner of Forty Below, said that he wanted to feature Mayall’s “lyrical” and “economical” keyboard playing on the record.

“I think the horns embellish everything on the album. On the original version of “A River’s Invitation,” for instance, the horns were very much a part of it and they are on my album,” Mayall said. “I like to use horns. I’ve done that right from the very beginning of my recording career. I think they add a lot to the texture of the music.”

Find A Way To Care sounds contemporary although it is done in the great blues tradition that is reflected in Mayall’s reverence for the originators of the music. But he said that there was no magic to achieving that sound.

“I don’t know how to explain it. My band, we do a 100 shows every year all over the world, so an engineer’s job is just to capture what we do,” Mayall said. “There’s no tricks about it. We go into the studio and we do what we do and Eric, being the engineer, presses the button and that’s what you get.”

This recording style – Mayall said that he likes to get everything in one or two takes – harkens back to a time in music before the digital era, when musicians and their studio engineers and producers had to be much more economical about their use of studio time.

And Mayall, called the Godfather of the British Blues, is from that era. While speaking to the News-Press, Mayall recalled the great reverence he had for the originators of his chosen genre. He first encountered Blues through his father’s record collection, which consisted of a lot of Jazz, a musical genre that is rooted in Blues.

“Blues is a traditionally a black American music and black America up until the late 60s was a separate society,” Mayall said. “In Europe, people revered black American music much more and it was appreciated much more than white Americans. That’s just one of those things that grew out of that I suppose.”

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