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To me, there is always something special about musicians who can use traditional instruments (voice, guitar, piano, for example) in ways that leave an audience stunned.  Better yet are the musicians who can use tried and true musical concepts while adding their own flair.  A fine example of this musical craftsmanship is John Mayer, who illustrates that traditionally-influenced blues indeed has its place in today’s musical culture.

Known originally for his standard, yet catchy pop tunes, John Mayer took a significant risk when he decided to shift his focus toward blues and electric guitar.  He departed, although not completely, from his already successful love/relationship brand of pop:

John Mayer – Clarity

to play his own modern blend of blues, which includes colorful covers of greats like Jimi Hendrix.

John Mayer Trio – Wait Until Tomorrow “Live”

While most guitar playing heard on contemporary radio consists largely of power chords or repeated samples in a basic verse and chorus:

Miley Cyrus – Party In the USA

John Mayer’s raw and lyrical guitar riffs, especially live, push back on the sometimes confining walls of popular music.

John Mayer – Come When I Call

His playing has evoked comparisons to names like Clapton, Hendrix and Vaughan, yet he seems unfazed by the pressure associated with this as shown in this Rolling Stone review of his album Where the Light is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles.  The ease with which with which he collaborates with Buddy Guy on “Feels Like Rain”, illustrates this seamless blend of old school blues with Mayer’s modern twist.

John Mayer & Buddy Guy – Feels Like Rain

Overall, Mayer seems to be paying tribute to the artists that inspired him; he also provides a successful meshing of blues with his own take to create something fresh and appealing to a variety of audiences.  It is no overstatement to say that Mayer brought back to the spotlight a genre and instrumental style thirty plus years past its golden age.

Alex Ryu

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