John Mayer, "Paradise Valley" (Columbia)
Last year, Mayer was in full-on retreat mode. His loose lips had gotten him in trouble when discussing his love life and sexual proclivities. Mayer the musician had receded from public view. That was apparent on 2012's "Born and Raised," a CD of dusky, country-tinged pop that made it clear Mayer had a lot on his mind and needed some space to process it. It was an unexpected and lovely detour into wilder pastures.
On his new "Paradise Valley," Mayer is still mining that mellow gold, but the music has lost its spark. These new songs are so amiable that you wonder where they're meant to take you. Often the breezy journey leads to dead ends. The album cover alone plays up his newfound Americana credentials, featuring Mayer in ramblin'-man garb looking like he's in search of a Crosby, Stills & Nash jam session.
The music is just as stilted, light and loose in uninteresting ways. "Wildfire," with guest Frank Ocean, hums with the faint din of crickets. Mayer's lady, Katy Perry, turns up on "Who You Love," a slack duet that's decidedly in Mayer's favor. Like the rest of this album, it's all smoke and no fire.
JAMES REED, Boston Globe
Tedeschi Trucks Band, "Made Up My Mind" (Sony Masterworks)
When Susan Tedeschi has a target, she shines. On "Sweet and Low," from the new Tedeschi Trucks Band CD, she tries to slither her way back into the good graces of someone she's wronged.
The best moments of this album are tragic in this way. "Do I Look Worried" is Tedeschi in full sass mode, and "Misunderstood" is her flaunting anguish. She only sounds right around pain, taking it in or doling it out.
"Made Up Mind" is another strong effort from Tedeschi and her husband, virtuoso blues guitarist Derek Trucks, though not quite as enlivening as the group's 2011 debut, "Revelator." While Tedeschi has a nasty howl, she's not as effective when restrained. Too often on this album, she aims to be gentle; it hinders her, and the band, which is built for live jams, but which on record too often paints by numbers.
But when Tedeschi is given full rein, everyone follows suit, as on the horn-driven soul "All That I Need." And the title track is greasy and tart, with Trucks slathering urgent guitar while his wife plays the tease.
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times