Jessica Lea Mayfield: Dire shadows and a lonely echo.
With M.A. Turner, 8 p.m. Thursday, July 23, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington, 713-862-2513 or www.pegstar.net.
There's an arid, sweltering ache about Jessica Lea Mayfield's music that recalls Will Oldham's early material. Darkness creeps from the corners and desperation pools beneath her leaking heart, but she doesn't shrink from it. Her smoky croon has a rich grain she doesn't mind going against, while roots-rock warmth spreads like syrup poured atop her country underpinnings. The dire shadows dancing cross her mind possess a moody, Southern gothic cast inflamed by youthful passion. Mayfield grew up singing with her family's bluegrass band, One Way Rider, and her debut EP, White Lies, bears much more of that imprint, finding a space somewhere between Jolie Holland and Allison Krauss. Her debut full-length, With Blasphemy So Hearteflt, was produced by fellow Akron resident Dan Auerbach. The Black Keys guitarist not only lends plenty of blues flavor with his playing, but imbues the whole album with lonely echo and a thick, looming presence. Mayfield's vocals certainly fill the space. At just 19, she evokes as much with how she sings as what she sings. Openers the Castanets play atmospheric alt-country that blends the cosmic edge of Beachwood Sparks with Calexico's parched swing, sprinkled with buzzing electronics and set in a graveyard for extra haunting.