Nathaniel Mayer: Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?

NathanielMayer_WhyWontYouLetMeBeBlackLatter-day recordings from early ‘60s soul legend

Nathaniel Mayer is best known among early soul fanatics for his 1962 hit “Village of Love,” a few other early ‘60s sides and the cult status he developed during a nearly forty-year absence from the music scene. He resurfaced briefly in 1980 with the single “Raise the Curtain High,” but it wasn’t until Norton Records issued the vault side “I Don’t Want No Bald-Headed Woman Telling Me What to Do” in 2002 that he was prompted to return in full for 2004’s I Just Want to Be Held. With the soaring soul voice of his early records reduced to a bluesy rasp, Mayer’s showmanship and feel for music remained fully intact. Whether his latter-day voice is burnished or shot is in the ear of the listener, but the way he strutted through up-tempo numbers and drew out ballads recalled the artistry of his younger years.

In 2007 Mayer released Why Don’t You Give It To Me?, backed by a collection of players from the Black Keys, Outrageous Cherry, SSM, and Dirtbombs. The heavy blues arrangements paired nicely with the edginess of Mayer’s voice, providing bottom end and pushing him to sing hard. This posthumous release (Mayer passed away in 2008) adds eight more tracks from those same sessions, expanding upon the weathered crooning, pained blues, and neo-psychedelic soul. The album also includes two acoustic performances from a 2007 radio interview on which Mayer’s vocals are completely revealed; the simple guitar backings leave the wear and tear to speak volumes. It’s hard to draw a line between the voice on “Village of Love” and these latter day recordings, but the artistry and soul are easily identifiable. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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