Under the radar: Mayfield Four album retains edge, punch

Hodgepodge of great musicians

Sometimes, bands get noticed because of what their members do afterward rather than anything they did while the band was together. The Spokane rock band The Mayfield Four offers an example of this phenomenon. Many fans discovered this band only after lead singer and lead guitarist Myles Kennedy began to front Alter Bridge with three former members of Creed.

Recently, I gave MF4's album Second Skin a listen more out of curiosity than anything else. What I heard blew me away. This band was just dripping with talent from all its musicians. Highlights abound on this album, the first being "Mars Hotel," on which bassist Marty Meisner repeatedly shows off his skills. Meisner makes the bass line stand out musically, rather than just serving as a backbone for the guitar parts. Kennedy's vocals also are solid, especially in the chorus, when he drops down into the lower register while still putting the same power behind his lyrics.

When all the members of a band are firing on all cylinders during a certain song, a sort of synergy develops. Some bands can make many albums and never quite achieve this, but MF4 does on "Flatley's Crutch." The bass line stands out again, and the guitarists throw out some great riffs, especially at the end of the chorus. The vocals alternate between whispering and normal volume, as Kennedy shows off his immense versatility as a singer. Drummer Zia Uddin supports this all very well, as he does throughout the album. The lyrics also echo a theme that is found on many Alter Bridge songs: Be the change that you wish to see in your life.

Other interesting moments occur on "Sick & Wrong," a song that channels Alice Cooper, adding in a post-grunge sensibility. The guitar line fits the hormonal and animalistic nature of the lyrics.\n"Backslide" is the funkiest song with the strongest underlying beat, which is helped by the bass line. The lyrics are also interesting, urging someone not to go back to a former lover as tempting as it might be, because everyone knows why it didn't work out initially.

On "Believe," MF4 shows a willingness to depart from the traditional verse-chorus song structure. Though one line is repeated, the song does not have a traditional chorus. The lyrics delve into how difficult it is to put oneself out there when one has been disappointed by romantic relationships in the past, something to which I'm sure many people can relate. Kennedy's vocals are not quite as strong, and his whispering feels somewhat out of place in this context. As interesting as this song is, it may be the least impressive overall, which if anything, however, is only a testament to the album's quality.

The lyrical themes on this album are interconnected, telling a story of the main character struggling to find someone to love and going through highs and lows in the process. The way the band was able to craft the songs in this way is genius.

Second Skin did not sell particularly well when it was released in 2001. After listening to this album, I am puzzled by the fact that a band with this much raw talent could not move many units. The only real theory I can come up with is there is no song on this album that screams, "Single!" other than perhaps "Eden (Turn The Page)." Second Skin does not seem to be the sort of album that would be easily marketed on the radio, but regardless of commercial viability, this album is a must for any rock fan's library.

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