The 'don't fuck with me' pose on the album sleeve gives notice that Jessica Lea Mayfield isn't in the mood to go soft. "The whole record is about me taking my life back" she says of a record written during a separation from her violent and abusive husband.
Mayfield, from Kent, Ohio, may have started out with country origins in a family bluegrass band but these roots are not evident on a hard-edged, grungey album, her fourth, which is described as "a raw document of a woman in progress".
She has a full backing band which includes Seth Avett (of the Avett Brothers) on backing vocals, Sia's guitarist Cameron Deyell and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. The sharp production by John Agnello emphasizes the full on Rock'n'Roll energy.
Needing to have a shotgun hidden under a futon is no-one's idea of fun living and this is an indication of the desperate state she found herself in. This detail comes in the song Maybe Whatever in which she asks rhetorically: "Did I know in my heart I was lying to you when I said I would be yours forever?"
In Soaked Through she sings of how "My lonely hell is waiting for me" while on Safe 2 Connect 2 she seeks advice on how to "un-dehumanize someone".
If she wasn't free of this destructive relationship, the songs would be regarded as a cry for help. As it is they stand as powerful statements about the need to recognize when bad stuff is happening and finding the courage to leave as opposed to pretending things will improve.
Her voice sounds wounded, melancholy but defiant. Though admitting to feeling unstable, traumatized and alone, this is ultimately a brave and optimistic record since it shows that there is a way out of the vicious spiral of domestic violence.
Jessica Lea Mayfield's website