From Motown to Our Town
Mayer Hawthorne's soul salvation
photo: Doug Coombe
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.
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.
who is young Mayer Hawthorne? Some facts:
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.