Mayer Hawthorne

From Motown to Our Town

Mayer Hawthorne's soul salvation

photo: Doug Coombe

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Feeling blue or some other hue? Well, drop the needle down on this kid Mayer Hawthorne's just-out A Strange Arrangement record and take a trip down false-memory lane, where the slo-burn stylings of the great soul brothers and sisters of lore offered such sweet solace. This is gonna do wonders for your heart and your mind, and that's a guarantee.

Mayer Hawthorne is the nom de plume of one 行 naw, let's not go there, that'd blow the fun. Let's just say this Mayer Hawthorne fella represents: It's a guise, a persona, a context in which he can lay down some of the most seriously, sweetly, satisfyingly soulful music since the glory days of the Motown/Philly soul legends from which it draws its blood.

Now, who is young Mayer Hawthorne? Some facts:

"I grew up on the south side of Detroit, in Ann Arbor," he says. "I come from a very musical family 行 my dad played bass guitar, and he taught me to play when I was real young. He still plays in the band. My mom was a piano player; she made me take piano lessons, which I hated."

Hawthorne's been making music in the Detroit area for most of his life, messing around with multiple instruments and tape recorders in his bedroom, and as a DJ obsessed with hip-hop. He decided to move out West a few years ago with his crew, and that was how he hooked up with Peanut Butter Wolf at Stones Throw. The rest is not history, so let's tell you about it.

What happened was, the famously knowledgeable PB Wolf got ahold of a couple of rich & tasty soul-inspired-type tracks that Stones Throw fan Hawthorne had brought him to check out, and thought it was some from-the-vaults typa thing, it sounded so good. "These must be cover versions," thought Wolf, "now why haven't I heard them before? I want more."

Thing is, those two tracks were just some throwaway stuff that Hawthorne had recorded as sort of a joke, and hadn't put much thought into, and he didn't have any more tracks like that.

"I had only ever recorded two songs," says Hawthorne with a chuckle, "and I hadn't even written any more, nor did I have any plans to pursue a career in soul music, or even record a full album of that material. But Peanut Butter Wolf was blown away and asked me to record more of that material for Stones Throw 行 and you don't say no to that."

So Hawthorne set out to write and record several more cuts to make up an album's worth of material for release as A Strange Arrangement. And he didn't just write and sing the stuff, he played most of it, too, which, given the feel and the warmth of the album 行 the authenticity and non-lame-ass vibe of the whole trip 行 is rather jawdroppingly amazing.