If you’ve seen David Mayfield perform with The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Jessica Lea Mayfield, or at Bonnaroo, you’ve caught the charisma, the heart, and the comedy, and it’s likely you’ll come back for more. The David Mayfield Parade’s April 1 release “Good Man Down” begs for that same repeated enjoyment.
With eclectic, cinematic songs that stir up images of the old West and urban cityscapes, the 12-track album feels like a game changer for a singer-songwriter, band leader, and Grammy nominated producer who stepped out of the sideman shadows with his 2011 solo debut “The Parade.” He likens “Good Man Down” to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” his first album was lighthearted and fun with nods to the past. His second is darker, creepier, more bizarre and outrageous.
He made “The Parade” without knowing if anyone would hear it, but the stakes for a follow-up were raised when his Kickstarter campaign more than doubled his initial goal of $18,000.
With a successful crowd funding campaign raising expectations, Mayfield felt it was time to take chances musically and delve into more adventurous production while tapping into his bluegrass roots. While anchored in descriptive songwriting with beautiful instrumentation including strings and horns, “Good Man Down” throws its listeners numerous musical curveballs. As producer he didn’t rein in his weirder musical tendencies. Just like his lively sometimes comical live shows, “Good Man Down” illustrates a lot of character without seeming contrived.
“Good Man Down” features notable guests Seth Avett, Mayfield’s bluegrass hero Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and country star Dierks Bentley who duets with Mayfield on Marty Stuart’s “Tempted.” Bentley remembered Mayfield from seeing his family’s bluegrass band play long before the former was a country star. That’s the thing. Mayfield isn’t easy to forget.
David Mayfield grew up playing bass and touring with his family’s bluegrass band. As a teenager he established himself as a hot picker collecting national awards for his dexterity on guitar and mandolin. His knack for colorful performances was evident as a backing player in his sister Jessica Lea Mayfield’s band including their appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” He oozed personality on stage – a trait that makes him a natural frontman. He took his skills and personality when he joined the bluegrass outfit Cadillac Sky, playing sold out shows with British folk revivalists Mumford and Sons. Around then Mayfield began writing songs after hearing artists like Randy Newman and Simon & Garfunkel. Encouraged by his sister Jessica, Mumford & Sons, and other friends in music to record his original material, Mayfield released “The Parade” to much acclaim. Since that time, David Mayfield has toured almost non-stop including many appearances with The Avett Brothers both with his own Parade and sitting in with the Brothers, until taking time from the road to record Good Man Down in response to pleas from his fans for another record.
“Was It Only Me” was one of those early songs he shared with friends backstage. On “Good Man Down” it’s evolved into a grand, epic track. It’s a quiet, emotional and poetic song that crests into a wild psychedelic conclusion. While the showman in Mayfield is conscious of writing live crowd pleasers, “Was It Only Me” is one he wrote for himself. Yet it’s one that will undoubtedly connect with his audience.
Conscious of not just being a musician, but an entertainer – something his father instilled in him in the family band – he certainly makes an impression live. But it’s the strength of his songwriting and musicianship, combined with that charm and personality that keep audiences coming back again and again.