John Mayer

Sob Rock
John Mayer
John Mayer: Carlos Serrao.

John Mayer’s latest is a somber ode to the soft-rockin’ ’80s – think Henley and Hornsby. But don’t start eye-rolling just yet.

Produced by Don Was, Mayer delivers the most polished guitar playing of his career. Sob Rock is a concept album about lost love, relationships gone astray, and romantic yearning. While almost an “SNL” parody, Mayer leans into it with masterful playing and conviction.

Slick yet heartfelt, songs like “Wild Blue” yield a Mark Knopfler aftertaste, with a smidgen of Clapton’s Behind The Sun smoothness. Lush keyboard pads work as a bed for Mayer to apply guitar-magazine-approved blues bends that scream adult maturity and succinct tastefulness. “Last Train Home” is an ’80s Clapton/Phil Collins mash-up with a perfectly executed PRS Silver Sky solo that fades out, faithful to the genre. His fingerpicked electric solo on “I Guess I Just Feel Like” is sublime, while the tear-inducing “Why You No Love Me” does the acoustic/electric thing to perfection.

Remember “Miami Vice,” when Crockett would wistfully stare out into the Miami sunset, leaning against his Ferrari? Sob Rock is like that. It’s a melancholy record draped in Armani suits, Jovan Musk, and high-priced guitar gear.

This article originally appeared in VG’s November 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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