Mayer Hawthorne: A Long Time
From digital single (Universal Republic, 2011)

Mayer Hawthorne: Fantasy Girl
From Impressions – The Covers EP (Stonesthrow, 2011)

Mayer Hawthorne: No Strings (Jazzy Jeff Roller Boogie Mix)
From 10″ (Stonesthrow, 2011)

When it rains, it pours. Though Mayer spent most of 2010 and 2011 touring, he still managed to get out a trickle of singles but in just the last few weeks, things have ramped up very quickly for him. For starters, he just signed with Universal Republic, a subsidiary of the mega-conglomerate that includes everyone from Florence and the Machine to James Blake to The Lonely Island. To help roll this out, the first single from Mayer’s upcoming How Do You Do dropped last week: “A Long Time.” It’s an ode to Detroit (and thankfully, not hawking a car in the process). My man Michael Barnes nailed it on a FB post: very Steely Dan steez though I actually hear more of a Doobie Brothers vibe. Either way, it’s an interesting new look..or, er…sound for Mayer who is clearly branching into new sonic territories.

That’s especially obvious on the free covers EP he dropped a few weeks back on Stonesthrow. Liked this one a lot and not just because it’s cover songs. In tackling everyone from Jon Brion to the Isley Brothers to Chromeo, Mayer and the Country are clearly trying to do more than just nail a perfect retro-soul vibe (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Normally, I would have posted “Work To Do,” his lively cover of the Isley Brothers’ 1973 song but I was more taken with the backstory behind his cover of “Fantasy Girl”:

This song was written and composed by an amazing man from Pasadena named Steve Salazar. He was born with a heart condition and passed away at the young age of 27. Before he died he recorded one incredible album of demos in the mid-70s with a band called Shorty’s Portion. Peanut Butter Wolf found a copy of the album and I loved it so much that he gave it to me (thanks Wolf!). The vinyl had a handwritten note tucked in the sleeve that was addressed to anyone who could help the band with management, a record deal, radio airplay, etc. I’d estimate there were less than 300 copies pressed. That’s my Dad playing pedal steel guitar and Topher Mohr shredding the guitar solo on my version.

1 Mayer changes up the song from the original by keeping it on a slower tempo (the original speeds up for most of the middle section) and I think this works well. Also, the closing line of the song – which returns to the opening line – is simply devastating.

Just to hit you with one more release, Stonesthrow also finally put out “No Strings” on vinyl. The original and remix versions of this tune have been around since last summer but now it’s on 10″ single. Jazzy Jeff remix, ftw.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that Mayer’s live set, which I wrote about, is now available on “direct to disc” LP through Stonesthrow.

  1. Salazar apparently lived literally a few miles down the road from where I live now, in the neighborhood of El Sereno. You can also hear the original version of the song at that link.