Gari Lamar Askew
Melissa Maerz
May 23, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Born and Raised

Current Status
In Season
John Mayer

We gave it a B

Taylor Swift, are you listening? Because this is the closest thing to an apology that you’re gonna get. After dumping America’s sweetheart, calling Jessica Simpson ”sexual napalm,” and dropping the N-word in Playboy, John Mayer is asking for forgiveness. Kind of. ”I’m a good man with a good heart/Had a tough time, got a rough start,” he sings on Born and Raised. ”But my shadow days are over now.”

Lately he’s had some time for soul-searching. Last year, after doctors discovered a granuloma on his throat, he underwent surgery and was placed on indefinite vocal rest. Meanwhile, he moved from L.A. to Montana, easing into a lifestyle so mellow it requires a Stetson hat. Now he’s brought a laid-back country vibe to Born, tapping Don Was (the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) to produce and draping his folk melodies in pedal steel and violin. The Laurel Canyon music scene of the ’60s and ’70s is a major touchstone here: Mayer name-drops Joni Mitchell on ”Queen of Californi” and harmonizes with David Crosby and Graham Nash on the title track. And that ramble-tamble style suits him: You can imagine the onetime king of the Sunset Strip running for the hills to strum his guitar under Neil Young’s harvest moon. True, you can still play Spot the Ex-Girlfriend in the lyrics. (Is ”Queen of California” about Jennifer Aniston? Is ”Speak for Me” a response to Swift’s Mayer-hating on 2010’s Speak Now?) But you can also hear Mayer confessing, in his most soulful voice, ”I’m trying to find the man I never got to be.” And this time, you might believe him. B

Best Tracks:
A country folk-jam Queen of California
A wistful ballad Born and Raised

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