by Melissa Stroh
I’m a sucker for a good blues song. The kind that pulls you down and into the despair of the subject matter. The kind that makes you feel something, even if you’ve never personally experienced it. And that kind of familiarity is what’s at the height of Continuum, John Mayer’s latest release. I know what you’re thinking. John Mayer? John “Your Body Is A Wonderland” Mayer? But this once shy Connecticut-born singer-songwriter has taken his time out of the spotlight to build up his reputation as a real blues man. Over the last two years he’s been playing blues gigs left and right with legends like Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. The shocking part is he’s actually been able to keep up with them, trading off solos in front of frenzied crowds. The emotionally draining performances and steady string of shows bled over to one of Mayer’s most focused and emotional albums to date.
Unlike his last album, Heavier Things, which Mayer claimed was full of heavy emotional material, the songs on Continuum actually deliver. Songs about religious turmoil, growing older, and those scumbags in the record industry fill out the album. In a particularly poignant moment in the song “Belief,” which is about the real reasons for the war overseas, Mayer sings, “What puts a folded flag inside his mother’s hand?/ Belief can/ Belief can.” And though pleading to a woman sounded trite and corny in earlier releases, on Continuum it seems honest and painful. With songs like “Gravity” and “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” Mayer convincingly begs an ex to stay the hell away from him, over a string of bluesy riffs.
Though Mayer has made a big leap with this album, he couldn’t help himself and snuck in some good old Paul Simon-esque songs with “The Heart of Life” and “Stop This Train.” Although the former can be construed as a tired notion, his lyrically unique way of presenting the idea is a breath of fresh air. The latter is a song that everyone can relate to, about not wanting to grow up. The steady acoustic guitar brings anyone back to a time when they just wanted to quit it all and run back home to mom and dad. Lyrically, Mayer hit it on the head. “So afraid of getting older/ I'm only good at being young/ So I play the numbers game/ To find a way to say that life has just begun,” he sings.
Just when you think Mayer’s pulled all the tricks out of his hat, he surprises you. He surprises you with a Hendrix cover. That’s right, the man goes all out and covers “Bold as Love.” As usual the singing is sub par, but the guitar playing is actually substantial and almost balances out the horrid vocals. The album ends with the encouraging “I’m Gonna Find Another You,” a song that rightly ends such a sultry album.