Matthew Mayfield and Delta Rae
- Article by: Erik Rocca
- Posted: 08/09/2011
As the sun set over the hills of Middle Tennessee Friday evening, Matthew Mayfield arrived at his gig at 12th & Porter with the swagger of a young musician on the rise. At 27 years old, the Birmingham native is on the cusp of something grand.
He's gone off on his own, recorded an impressive full-length album and done it all his own way. The result is something genuine and true. Mayfield seems comfortable in his outlaw skin, and it certainly showed during a performance before a sold-out crowd of adoring fans Friday night.
Opening the evening in support of Mayfield were Delta Rae, a burgeoning young band from the forests of Durham, North Carolina. Combining elements of pop, rock ‘n’ roll and a gorgeous Southern folk, Delta Rae captivated the audience with pure four-part harmonies and a solid live set that included a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
Delta Rae are a six-member outfit, three of whom are siblings. The family dynamic produces a synchronicity and precision in their performance that communicates the feeling of something deeper than the usual bond shared among musicians. Each member of this band can sing, and the result is a certain majesty.
Highlights of their set included a haunting and beautiful tune, "Bottom of the River," and the touching “Country House.”
“Bottom of the River" invokes a gothic tale of redemption and spotlights the singing performance of Brittany Hölljes, a platinum haired siren with vocal chords that could move mountains.
“Country House” stands as an elegy to the Hölljes’ grandfather and once again features crystalline harmonies in praise of a man now lost to the sands of time. Both songs demonstrate the band's deeply rooted sense of pride and place.
Delta Rae have recently spent time opening for bands like Hanson, Rooney and Edwin McCain and are beginning to sell out shows as headliners in their own right. Sincerity and energy emanate from their performance, and I expect nothing but big things from this band in the future.
By the time Mayfield took the stage, the audience was poised and ready for a terrific performance from an artist on the cusp of something big. There is muscularity and triumph in Mayfield’s songwriting, and it was on full display as he launched into a guitar-driven set that included the hit single “Now You’re Free,” the song “Man-Made Machines,” and a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You.”
Mayfield’s engaging personality and his smoky baritone set the crowd aflame as audience members sang along to his radio friendly brand of heartbreak and hope. Mayfield is touching on something that reaches beyond the normal scope of traditional songwriting. Each song is like a tiny anthem expressing a more universal desire. Mayfield manages to do all of this while coming across as someone you’d like to sit down with over a beer.
Mayfield’s set was mainly up-tempo and featured extended guitar work from his band. “Man-Made Machines” included soaring guitars and a long jam session that rocked like a freight train.
There is no denying that Mayfield’s songs have a cinematic quality and easily lend themselves to the soundtracks of major television successes like Grey’s Anatomy. It’s one part rock ‘n’ roll and one part world-weary lament found at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels. However, it’s not all tears and disarray. In the end, Mayfield’s songs seem to contain a faith that all will be restored.
As his gorgeous set drew to a close, Mayfield’s rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You” brought a somber tone to the amber-lit crowd at 12th and Porter. Perhaps the crowd realized they had just witnessed a show from a man elegantly moving forward in his career, growing as his audience grows, getting older, making mistakes and transforming every bit of it into art.
"Fix You" - Matthew Mayfield