Percy Mayfield? Most recognize his songs before his name – he wrote such masterpieces as “Please Send Me Someone To Love” and a little ditty called “Hit The Road Jack” that a certain Mr. Charles rode to the top of the charts …
Often called “The Poet Laureate of The Blues,” Mayfield’s work is permeated with loneliness and dignified despair. Yet for a time he seemed to have it all – a knack for songwriting, combined with movie-star looks, pointed to a promising career indeed. But a horrific accident left his face permanently disfigured, and Mayfield retreated into world of private pain, rarely performing in public (by most accounts only when he needed the money).
Thankfully Mayfield continued to compose, and though most of his output reflected the darkness in which he dwelt, sheer craft and Mayfield’s evocative imagery established an altogether new standard for blues songwriting that’s rarely been touched since.
Amos Garrett, a pretty laconic guy himself (he prefers life on his ranch to the hustle and grind of touring), proves an ideal interpreter of Mayfield’s songs. With an easy-going baritone and a relaxed sense of swing, Garrett tackles eleven of Mayfield’s finest songs to absolutely irresistible effect.
With stellar support from the cream of Canada’s crop (Bucky Berger on drums, Victor Bateman on bass, with Ken Whitely contributing piano), guitarist Garrett takes a relaxed approach that fits the material like a glove. Somehow his deep baritone seems to both plumb the dark depths of Mayfield’s lyrics while offering warmth and comfort – an extraordinarily effective approach that makes the most of the material.
While Mayfield’s two best-known compositions are absent, Garrett mines his songbook for tunes with equal impact – “My Jug And I,” “River’s Invitation,” “Lost Mind,” and a handful of lesser-known gems. There’s a jazzy sensibility to many – horns adorn most, and Ron Casat provides subtle yet superb support on Hammond – and Garrett’s astonishingly fleet solos tend to smolder rather than burn. In short it’s not the type of disc likely to generate a spontaneous dance party, but as a satisfying listen with seemingly endless depth it’s as good as it gets.