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Wednesday, 07 May 2014 15:40

Concert review: Jessica Lea Mayfield (with Dylan LeBlanc) burns darkly at the Firebird, Wednesday, May 6

Jessica Lea Mayfield at the Firebird Jessica Lea Mayfield at the Firebird Dustin Winter
Written by Kyle Kapper
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"What's your favorite color?" Jessica Lea Mayfield asked the crowd, who responded with a chorus of polychrome. "If you put all those together," Mayfield smirked, "it looks like shit."

Dark humor and darker music were the theme of the night as the Wednesday Addams of singer-songwriting returned to the Firebird. Her cat-and-mouse repartee ("I wish you were all dogs") was a stark contrast to the scrappy grunge proffered by Mayfield's three-piece band.

It wasn't until she began delving into her new material, however, that Ms. Mayfield appeared to truly enjoy herself. Once she did wander into the noise-swamps of "Anything You Want" and "Oblivious," though -- both off her new album, "Make My Head Sing..." -- her distinct monotone retained its fire, bleeding energy into her older songs as well. "The One That I Love Best," off her fantastic debut, "With Blasphemy So Heartfelt," particularly simmered with the new chaos in Mayfield's sound.

"Make My Head Sing...," co-produced with bassist and husband Jesse Newport, is Mayfield's first release sans Dan Auerbach. With Lana Del Rey recently joining the list of musicians Auerbach has butted heads with (Jack White and the Black Keys' own Patrick Carney are on that list, too), Mayfield's new autonomy may explain why the album is her first to resemble her earliest influence, Dave Grohl. It's no stretch to suggest the evening's closer, "No Fun," would've fit well on "Nevermind."

Throughout the evening, and with Newport at her side, Mayfield seduced the house with more than just her music. Shedding her blazer to reveal a backless blouse atop fishnets, she assured the crowd, "I promise not to take anything else off." Just a few songs later, though, her straight-faced perma-grin returned as she stooped to trade guitars and said, "I forgot to put on underwear today, so I'm trying not to bend over too much." Surprisingly cheeky comic relief from an artist's whose new album begins, "I could kill her with the power in my mind."

Dylan LeBlanc opened the evening with his self-professed "spooky, Scooby-Doo" music. Self-deprecation aside, LeBlanc's beautifully wispy vocals floated over a simple acoustic accompaniment, breathing new life into music which has gone underappreciated for years. Indeed, LeBlanc's last venture to St. Louis was to play to a near-empty Off Broadway in late 2012, despite his having collaborated with Emmylou Harris earlier that year. Hopefully he'll begin receiving his due with his third album, which he's been crafting in his hometown of Muscle Shoals to be released later this year.

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