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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

No, Not John Mayer, That’s PETER Mayer

No, Not John Mayer, Thats PETER Mayer

t Saturday night I drove west on Route 2 out to Rindge, NH, to see singer-songwriter Peter Mayer. The show took place in a Lutheran Church in the dark New Hampshire woods near Mt. Monadnock. (Let’s just say that I never realized how much I’ve come to take street-lights for granted.)

The small, unadorned sanctuary was full of enthusiastic New England fans, some of whom claimed to have seen Peter more than five times, others who drove from as far away as Connecticut, Maine, and New York to be at this show. When you consider that

Mayer is a native Minnesotan who still lives near the Twin Cities, this devotion is pretty remarkable. Mayer has been featured by the Telluride and Lyons Folk Festivals and gotten some favorable reviews in magazines such as Acoustic Guitar and Dirty Linen.

At first, I wasn’t sure how well-deserved such fan devotion was. Nobody in my usual musical circles had heard of Peter Mayer. When I mentioned the show, the most interesting response was “oh I love his song about running through the halls of his high school.” No, that would be John Mayer; this is Peter. No, not John’s brother. No, totally different. Mhm. Now you got it.

* * *

The show started off a little slow; Mayer performed a lot of Christmas ballads from his latest CD, Midwinter. The highlight of the first half for me was its opening song “God Is a River.” However, the warm, scruffy vocals and intricate guitar picking couldn’t quite overcome the holiday goo-something like a melted fruitcake-which I felt encrusted the lyrics on most of the songs from Midwinter. At one point Mayer broke into a Christmas poem about a couple that collected Santa statuettes of every ethnicity, profession, religion, etc. It could have been funny, but the rhymes were just too dumb. (UMB English Professor Lloyd Schwartz can help with that, by the way.)

Thank you, Peter, but I’d recommend my readers stick with Nat King Cole, George Winston, Loreena McKennitt, and Celine Dion (don’t laugh, her Christmas album is her best English-language album by far) for their Chistmas holiday music.

All that aside, Peter Mayer’s as earthy and intimate as his songwriting. During intermission, he came into the Parish Hall and shared coffee, baked goods, and hugs with local fans as well as fellow Minnesotans. His silver hair and lined forehead say he’s been around a few blocks. His warm belly laugh, piercing gaze, and infectious grin tell you that he’s enjoyed the trip.

After intermission, things really got rocking. Mayer took requests from the audience; most were for songs from one of his previous six albums. A sharp, witty sense of humor emerged on tracks such as “Driving With Your Knees” and “The Introvert Song” from Elements (his most comedic album); a deep Celtic longing arose on the hymn/ballad “Blue Boat Home” from Earth Town Square, and a kind of bluegrass/folk vibe filled the room for songs from Straw House Down such as “Rosa Parks” and “Peppermint Wind.”

All in all, Mayer made me a believer. I walked out of the show smiling, feeling strangely more connected to my fellow humans. Sometimes it’s nice to revisit family-friendly folk music to restore a little innocence to my music collection. I’ll definitely look forward to seeing Peter Mayer play again. I bought Earth Town Square, but passed on the Christmas album.