John Mayer returns.
Four years after the luke-warm Paradise Valley, the reigning king of soft rock delivers The Search For Everything.
Following a tumultuous personal life that included a string of bad relationships, a worse album (2009's Battle Studies), and a slew of unflattering magazine interviews, Mayer was struck with vocal health issues - sidelining his career.
The despondent musician retreated to a Montana ranch where he quietly put out two country-influenced LPs, 2012's Born and Raised and 2013's Paradise Valley. While valiant efforts, neither record captured the generation-defying magic Mayer exuded on 2006's GRAMMY-winning Continuum.
Everything is a true return to form for pop's most versatile musician. Mayer, who once described singing as "sticky," has matured in both tone and delivery. The musician is pushing 40, and his voice reflects that - giving recordings a gravitas that was missing a decade ago.
Already a top-tier guitar player, the Berklee-trained musician's time with Grateful Dead offshoot Dead and Company has paid impressive dividends. While Mayer airs on the side of brevity he flexes his fretboard chops on the bruising "Helpless," displays incredible touch on plucky groovers "Still Feel Like Your Man," and "Moving On and Getting Over," and shreds his way through the organ-laden "Rosie."
The blues fan delivers perhaps the best moment of the record when he unleashes a scorching solo on the back half of the acoustic lullaby "Changing," channeling the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Mayer still defaults to soft-spoken singer-songwriter slush at times, but without the unbearing frequency of previous releases. The low points of Everything serve as an interesting look into the mind of America's finest musical student.
Continuing to explore as a songwriter and recording artist, Mayer utilizes a wide array of sonic textures sprinkled atop his simple vocal delivery. Harps and thunderous timpani accompany the unique "Emoji of a Wave," while orchestral strings and country twang make repeat appearances throughout the 12-track record.
Celtic-tinged bar-stomper "In the Blood" could have easily made an appearance on Ed Sheeran's Divide, while piano-driven "Never on the Day You Leave" is a stuffy-yet-worthy breakup ballad, presumably about ex-girlfriend Katy Perry. Playful whistles punctuate "You're Gonna Live Forever In Me," giving the closing track a wistful Toy Story vibe.
On Everything, Mayer deftly bridges the divide between foot-stomping blues, refined Americana songwriting, and radio-ready pop. Fans from every era of the musician's varied career will find something to love on this stunning record.
(Photo: Getty Images)