TR 306CD TR 306CD

In his three albums preceding Golden, Stockholm-based, English-singing German musician Johannes Mayer aka The Late Call has churned out sparsely arranged gems, with, at most, only hints of piano chords and the slightest accents of percussion. But in 2012, after the release of his album Pale Morning Light (TR 237CD/LP) and corresponding tour, Mayer turned away from this singer-songwriter style. He spent a year writing new material, then packed his bags full of songs and went looking for a band. In October 2014, Mayer (guitar), Patric Thorman (bass, Hammond organ), Henrik Roger (piano, Mellotron), and Lars Plogschties (drums, percussion) spent ten days in the grand recording room of Studio Nord in Bremen. The result was Golden, an album that brings to mind the music of the early '70s, the heyday of folk-rock, with songs that are at once warm and clear, laid-back and dynamic. Instead of the digital editing associated with most records in 2015, this album features the musicians playing together, standing in a half-circle. It captures a golden era when Hunter S. Thompson was writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Bob Dylan was riding on horseback with Kris Kristofferson through New Mexico. It was the time of the first indie songwriters, who flourished on both sides of the big pond -- here Townes van Zandt and Tim Hardin, there Nick Drake and John Martyn. But while the songs undoubtedly evoke folk and Americana, early '90s independent Britpop also shimmers between the lines. And yet this eclecticism has never been Mayer's ultimate goal -- in the end, he and his band sound only like themselves. It's no coincidence that the last track, "Telling Stories," makes use of tape delay, which seems to draw sound out into eternity. Musically and lyrically, Golden sheds light on the ordinary and everyday, finding subjects that might otherwise remain hidden. "The Pact" revolves around two people reminiscing about their youthful pledge to never become like the old. When Mayer's voice joins with his long-term musical acquaintance Ylva Ceder in the line, "never to become like them, never to give in," one can't help but think of two other voices, also "blending in perfection": Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. All through the album, this special songwriter, with a voice full of longing, carries you away to drop you off three minutes later at the place you once dreamed of being.