David and Valerie Mayfield stopped off in town to play The Saint on Sunday, Jan. 31, along with Tony Tedesco and Full Fathom Five. While I had heard about them from Tedesco, I had never had a chance to actually watch what they did. Their set was both intimate and engaging. Their particular brand of country-tinged folk was both invigorating and passionate. Their bio tells a more detailed story about a duo that has laid some serious mojo on the music scene.
It shows us that David and Valerie started playing music together in the late 1980s when they formed a country band named One Way Rider. They quickly became one of northeast Ohio’s favorite country bands and played at the famous Hurdy Gurdy in Poland, Ohio, and at Ponderosa Park in Salem, Ohio. At Ponderosa Park, they opened up for Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, and Patty Loveless and many more. David and Valerie also played as a duet at the Red Garter Saloon at Ponderosa Park and followed every primary country act on Sunday afternoons.
In 1993, One Way Rider changed formats and became a family bluegrass band with the addition of their son David Ray Mayfield. David was 13 years old and played bass and produced their first family CD, Slimey River Bottom. A few years later young David Mayfield produced their next family CD, One Way Rider Live From Cleveland, Ohio. This CD included their young eight-year-old daughter Jessica Lea Mayfield.
The family bought an old tour bus that turned out to be Bill Monroe’s famous Bluegrass Breakdown. They moved to Nashville and became the house band at The Nashville Palace. They played shows at the Ernest Tubbs Records Shop, The Ryman Auditorium, Tootsies, Gibson Guitar Cafe, and the new Gibson Bluegrass Showcase and The Station Inn. During this time they played shows with Sam Bush, David Grisman, Vassar Clements, Larry Cordle, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Del McCoury, Ralph Stanley, and many others.
During this time frame, David produced their third family CD, One Way Rider Guesses River. This CD featured Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Alan O’Bryant on banjo. The next CD, again produced by David Ray Mayfield, was the gospel CD One Way Rider The Man In The Middle. This featured some family four-part a capella songs and also included Amanda Lynn Mayfield on banjo. OWR The Mayfield Family, again produced by David Mayfield, was the last family CD.
David and Valerie’s children have gone on to become national and international performers. They both have appeared on the David Letterman show. David and Valerie are touring now as a dynamic bluegrass duet and are currently supporting their second duet CD, Steal My Heart, a simple, honest look at some of life’s most enduring topics.
What else can I say? This is a real family unit that cuts their survivalist teeth on the road and in the hallowed halls of famous brethren. I had a chance to speak with them after their show, and they are the most down-to-earth folks on the planet. Even with all the exceptional work that they’ve done, they were easy to speak with and even stayed around to watch Tony Tedesco and the Full Fathom Five’s set. I talked separately and together with both Valerie and David, and they were as humble as they are talented.
As I mentioned before, their latest CD is called Steal My Heart, and they played more than a few cuts this night. I wanted to go through the 10-song disc and leave my impressions on some of the highlights of this family run duo and the music that they create.
“Darling Corey” is straight out of O Brother Where Art Thou. Straight hardcore hillbilly romps through love and hardship brigades the likes that made America tough as nails from the very early days. Guitars and Mandolins chirp in time as David and Valerie harmonize to beat the band.
“Satisfied Mind” rolls off the platter with down-home finesse and backwoods luxury. David Mayfield’s voice is traditional beyond words. Just nasally enough, he pulls at the heartstrings and lays down solid, traditional country folk sounds. Valerie adds complementary backing tones and mandolin trills galore. Simple and elegant, this is a duo that leaves out the clutter and sticks to the right stuff. They could have easily turned this into a multi-instrumental jamboree but they didn’t, and it’s a great thing.
“Willow Garden” is up next. Featuring the lead vocal of Valerie Mayfield, “Willow Garden” takes the listener through mountain hollows and small-town theatrics that bring us all to that place in the vortex of the mountain clan’s daily living. Valerie tells the tale of deceit and murder of a girl called Rose Conley. She confesses the act and the eventual placement of a body in hell. Mandolins mix with acoustic guitars in a graceful dance of a Tennessee waltz.
Moving around the disc, I settled on a song called “Pretending I Don’t Care.” Valerie and David serenade the listener in misery, sorrow and the act of pretending that all is well. Valerie soars as she blends lyrical verse and melodic harmony with David’s shopworn style. Mandolin chirps accentuate underneath acoustic guitar chords along the lines of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
“Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones is up next. David and Valerie do an old standard in a fresh and original bluegrass/country style. Once again mandolins trill, and acoustics pick together as one as David and Valerie breathe new and exciting life into an old-time favorite. David’s vocal resonates with that old school Dwight Yoakum slang as Valerie sweetens up the choruses.
The last song on the disc is called “Good Women’s Love.” Led by David, the tune rolls out age-old traditional forays into love, relationships and the result of all of those topics. Harmonies are dead on and folkie as hell. You can tell that David and Valerie have been singing together for years, and it’s all good. Mandolin leads in the bridge sing under acoustic chord waltzes. This is a great song and a perfect ending to one of the best country/folk discs out there today.
Tony Tedesco and Full Fathom Five did their usual great thing afterward as well. Seeing Tedesco with a bit more electric edge, the band went through a set of tunes from their self-titled album as well as new Tedesco compositions, and it was a grand live show. Featuring vocalist Deirdre Forrest, Tedesco and crew laid down a smooth, backcountry groove unlike any other in town. Featuring Ryan Gregg (Shady Street Show Band) on keys, Ron Santee of The Battery Electric on drums, Deirdre Forrest on vocals, Gorgo Beach, Matt Lott, Sean-David Cunningham, Jay Walker and the APM Horns featuring Benjamin Clapp T-bone (Acid), Robert Butkowski (Black Flamingos), and Bruce Krywinski Jr. (Backyard Super Hero’s), Tedesco took The Saint audience through a plethora of intricate, locally written superhero tunes. If you get a chance to catch them, do it.
I hope I get to see David and Valerie Mayfield again shortly as they were a rare and talented treat in our little “city by the sea.” For more on their tour schedule and music, head over to davidandvaleriemayfield.com. And check out Tony Tedesco and The Full Fathom Five over at tonytedescomusic.com.
Please send me an email if you know of any deserving bands that should grace these pages. Email me at email@example.com.