Nathaniel Mayer (1944-2008) was one of the all-time great soul singers. His 1962 record "Village of Love" made him a star, and he inspired several generations of musicians, especially in his hometown of Detroit. Nathaniel’s last sessions took place during two long summer days and nights of intense jamming, writing, and recording. "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?"(2008) was the first installment of these recordings to be unleashed.
The second volume of Nathaniel Mayer having a blast with the assistance of members of the Black Keys, SSM, Outrageous Cherry, and the Dirtbombs titled "Why Don't You Let Me Be Black?" was released in 2009. The two acoustic performances are from a 2007 radio interview, Nathaniel’s only known "unplugged" performance. About the title: It has to do with the food he kept being served while on tour in Europe. When Nate finally became frustrated with the countless plates of cheese and French bread that awaited him backstage at every gig, he shouted "Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?". He agreed that it sounded like a good title for his next album. — Matthew Smith / OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY
In the early days of this century, a generation of Motor City punks connected the generational dots between their swagger and that of this late, gravel-throated godfather, aiding in his brief reappearance on the scene. Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? is culled from the same sessions that spawned 2007's Why Don’t You Give It to Me? On that earlier disc, members of the Dirtbombs, Outrageous Cherry and the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach accompanied Mayer as he cut loose in a most unapologetic manner, heaving his case-hardened, street-corner soul against a wall of post-Stooges garage mayhem. Black plays much the same but more often turns the spotlight in the direction of Mayer’s original turf. The ballads "If You Would Be My Guide" and "The Girl Next Door" are relatively mellow rest stops for this badass crew. A pair of acoustic tracks from a radio appearance are added gems. If these are leftovers, they are leftovers worth savoring. – Duane Verh / Cleveland Scene
Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? : This is a sadly posthumous follow up to Mayer’s excellent Why Don’t You Give It To Me (I posted that one a little while ago here). It collects more tracks from the same sessions, juxtaposing Mayer’s gruff warbling baritone with a psychedelic soul-rock backing. Its in fact a bit more consistent in sound than the predecessor, there are no detours into funk or reggae. The album is nothing but dark bluesy echoey distorted laments on love, money (mostly lack of it), and drugs. And that’s pretty much all I want from it, because it does those things so damn well. So far I think I’m ranking this as the second best soul album of the year, right behind Lee Fields. – Steady Bloggin’
Fear not. That’s not the sound of the bottom of the barrel being scraped.We lost a good ‘un when resurrected soul veteran Nathaniel Meyer shuffled off this mortal coil in 2008 and this is a fitting tribute, even if assembled from studio bits-and-pieces.
Half-a-dozen of these eight cuts are from the session that yielded "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?" with the balance from a live-in-the-studio acoustic bracket taped for radio. The differing approaches meld seamlessly.
If you didn’t hear the predecessor album "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?" then you need to. It was an astounding comeback-from-God-knows-where that welded Mayer’s scarred, knife-edge vocal to sometimes sparse and often confronting accompaniment from a crew of underground notables like Dave Shettler, mostly from Nat’s Motor City. Black Key Dan Auerbach’s guiding hand (and guitar) was on the tiller and Jim Diamond engineered.
"Dreams Come True" is a restrained opener and sweetly soulful in its own inimitable way. Mayer’s voice is undeniably ravaged but he doesn’t push it to the edge here. For that we only have to wait a song; "Mr Taxman" reverts to recent type – a seven-and-a-half-minute vamp wrapped in fried guitar and lyrical allusions to being down-and-out. Its sister track is the intently plodding "The Puddle", another intense burner. Brevity’s at the soul of "She’s Bad" but it, too, shares the same postcode.
Mayer’s vocal is at its most pure on the acoustic "You Are The One", a mid-album oasis among all the brooding and dissonance. "The Girl Next Door" is ushered in by Tim Boatman’s plaintive piano and harks back to "Why Dontcha?" form the previous al
Apart from a distorted bass solo in its closing bars, "If You Would Be My Guide" faintly echoes "Unchained Melody." No shame in that ‘cept Nathaniel Meyer puts it out there more nakedly than the Righteous Brothers ever did.
If the acoustic "What Would You Do?" seems an oddly quiet way of closing, you can’t but smile at Nat’s mumbled reference to being happy in his own world on the end. Let’s raise a glass to that. – The Barman /I-94 Bar
Several of the tracks on this album sound more like spontaneous jams than songs, in particular "Mr. Tax Man" and "The Puddle," and Mayer’s voice sounds worn and frayed on many of these songs. But if the flesh is weak, Mayer’s spirit is strong and confident on these recordings, and he has a marvelous rapport with his band (which features Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry, and Troy Gregory of the Witches and the Dirtbombs); even on the tunes that sound spontaneous, his vocals merge beautifully with the tough guitar-centered sound of the musicians. And Mayer’s songcraft is inspired; "You Are the One" and "The Girl Next Door" are the sort of soulful, passionate love songs they just don’t write anymore, and "Mr. Tax Man" and "The Puddle" are compelling ’70s-style rock-funk hybrids that sound smart and streetwise as Mayer sings about war, economic injustice, drugs, and homelessness. Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? may be a collection of loose ends, but these are loose ends well worth hearing, and they’re a striking reminder of how strong and passionate an artist Nathaniel Mayer was right up to the end. – Mark Deming / All Music Guide
You won’t find a better album title this year, folks. Apparently it’s what the lifelong East Detroit resident shouted out during a tour of Europe, frustrated with the same French bread and cheese platters that he was constantly being served backstage at his gigs — you can’t make this stuff up! Nathaniel Mayer is one of those semi-legendary Windy City soul singers and his releases from the sixties made him a local legend, his music later serving as a major influence on Detroit-based artists like the Black Keys, Dirtbombs and recent Stones Throw signing Mayer Hawthorne. Though Mayer had a top 40 hit in ’62 with the classic "Village of Love," for many deep soul aficionados you can’t talk about the singer without mentioning his brilliant 1966 single, "(I Want) Love and Affection (Not the House of Correction)," an uptempo stomper that showcased his hard, bluesy tenor. Mayer pretty much disappeared from the public eye for more than 30 years and many fans assumed that he had died, but in 2004 he resurfaced again, encouraged by the local Detroit artists who were championing his music. Back in the spotlight, the singer would tour the states and performed some club dates in Europe, yet sadly he passed away following the release of 2007's Why Don’t You Give It To Me? This album at hand, Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?, comes from the same two-day recording session as its predecessor, featuring the musical support of members of the Black Keys, Dirtbombs and Outrageous Cherry. In his later years, Mayer’s clear-throated tenor had become a gruff, raspy howl, but the echoey, garage-rock backing from his all-star band is a perfect fit. Tracks like "Mr. Tax Man," "She’s Bad" and "The Puddle" are smoky, electric blues burners that conjure ghosts of Electric Mud, while "What Would You Do" and "You Are the One" are intimate acoustic performances culled from a 2007 radio interview. For those who like their R&B and soul served up raw, pathos-tinged and slightly unhinged, step right up! – Duane Harriott / Other Music
Like the first session, Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? is not crisp, clean, or polished. This session captured exactly what Nathaniel Mayer was all about: the moment and the emotion. The production for Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? is extremely lo-fi with rough edges, giving this album a laid back, improvisational sound. The contributing musicians match the grit and sass that literally drenches every syllable that emits from Nathaniel Mayer’s mouth, making this album a statement in raw emotion where what you hear is what you get. When his voice wains and stretches to finish a line or hit a certain note, it strikes a chord deep within and you know exactly what is on his mind and in his heart at that particular moment. Musically, things are sparse and never overpower Mayer’s vocal delivery. The right touches are added in just the right places whether it be simplistic percussive rhythms or an almost out-of-tune upright piano, exhibiting the strength and quality of musicians on hand. On a more somber note, knowing that this will be the last we will hear from Nathaniel Mayer makes this album even more of an emotional blast than it already is. – Andrew Bryant /Disc Exchange
If you liked WDYGITM? then you’ll also dig WWYLMBB? It consists of eight tracks, six electric numbers from those sessions plus two "unplugged" radio performances full of bluesy strum. The disc starts off surprisingly mellow, with the slow jam "Dreams Come True", Mayer’s ragged voice to the fore. A voice that couldn’t come from a younger man, that’s for sure, but is also still quite supple and expressive. Pretty soon thereafter the fuzz kicks in, this disc featuring its share of thwomping electric muzz, that sort of thing reaching its zenith perhaps on the penultimate track "The Puddle", wherein Mayer sings about just how high he is. Again, we’re sad that Mr. Mayer is no longer with us, but happy that these recordings (and maybe more to come) exist to allow us to enjoy his raw soul talent eternally (or, at least for our lifetimes). – Aquarius records
There’s still plenty to like about Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black? (including the awesome album cover), and it’s worth your attention if for no other reason than it’s likely the last we’ll hear of a voice that will be greatly missed. – MOKB
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. – Hyperbolium
PRESS for Why Won’t You Give It To Me?
This is not a parody
This Album of the Month is nothing less than an heroic act, being both an extraordinary art statement of cavernous Detroit Psychedelic soul AND a major mission of Cultural Retrieval. For, with the help of four contemporary musicians at least 25 years younger than himself, veteran Detroit R&B star Nathaniel Mayer has with this single LP lifted himself out of the worthy but Old Timer Chicken-in-a-Basket Soul Revue scene, and been delivered into the welcoming hands of the drooling and mightily entranced Underground. And believe me, kiddies, retrieving the voice of Nathaniel Mayer for our own delectation makes the musicians in question into true culture heroes; so let’s scream out major hails to the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, SSM’s Dave Shettler, the Dirtbombs’ Troy Gregory, and (most especially) to mainman and prime mover Matthew Smith. For, despite claims to the contrary, even Mayer’s recent 2004 LP I JUST WANNA BE HELD still suffered from boring, nay, dutiful sax, boring ‘authentic’ guitar tones and songs written in the Retro/Retread soul vein. Well, not anymore! Now, it’s welcome to weeping dual fuzz guitars, proto-punk garage rhythms, nuclear burn-ups of free-rock De Twat, and all topped off with a changeling R&B guy whose vocal range takes in everything from Screaming Jay Hawkins to Dionne Warwick, via George Clinton, early I-Tina, Ray Charles and James Brown by way of the Monks. WHY DON’T YOU GIVE IT TO ME? is an instant party and an instant classic, an immensely stoned groove and an exhilarating and swampy hybrid of the early call-&-answer heavy soul of Funkadelic (first 3LPs), the cacophonous Glam Soul of John & Yoko’s SOMETIME IN NEW YORK CITY, the fuzzy earnestness of early early early Bob Seger (‘Heavy Music’-period), the abandoned lyrical Free Association of Kim Fowley’s berserk Psychedelic Psoul Revue on OUTRAGEOUS, plus the murky voodoo gunk of Night Tripper-period Dr. John. Yes, from its very first sub-sub-Chocolate Watchband/very early Stones opening bars, this new Nathaniel Mayer record screams: "Here I AM!" Better still, after his aforementioned stilted 2004 album I JUST WANNA BE HELD1, it’s enthralling to hear this veteran 64-year-old Detroit R&B singer finally united with a truly sympathetic backing band chock full o’garageheads who been raised on such errant fuzzarama garage compilations as PEBBLES 1-12, BACK FROM THE GRAVE 1,2&3, HIPSVILLE 29BC, OFF THE WALL, TURDS ON A BUM RIDE and their glorious ilk, suddenly lending Nathaniel the kind of guitar-heavy demented amphetamine yawp that forces his own performance sky high. The results are no less than immediate and spectacular. Indeed, from the moment Nathaniel Mayer nobbled me with the title track’s lyrical opening gambit – ‘You gave it to him, why don’t you give it to me?’ – well, I knew this artist would have Album of the Month just so long as he didn’t fuck up the remaining thirty-six minutes TOO much. Ja, mein hairies, this 6-month-old vinyl slab is truly one motherfucker of an album.
Side One of WHY DONCHA GIVE IT TO ME? commences with the title track, whose enormous Bats In The Belfry belltone guitar riffing and cranky leaden drums immediately sets the listener on edge, before our hero steps into the spotlight and immediately crouches down on one knee to confess his pain to his coy mistress, the half-written lyrical abandon of Nathaniel’s song-writing (spawning such couplets as "You made him a happy man all across the land") reinforcing our suspicions that this record’s producers knew they had limited studio time in which to make this record, before the whole shithouse exploded in their faces. Next up is the Electric Manchakou-style teenage exuberance of ‘White Dress’, another work-in-progress being sketched out before our very eyes, like some wide-eyed and ageless shaman/woman cooing and billing in wonder at the opposite sex over three minutes of ‘Shake Appeal’-period Stooges replete with handclaps and endless questions. This is followed by ‘I’m a Lonely Man’, four minutes of the most shameless (and tuneless) BACK FROM THE GRAVE-stylee garage voodoo, as Nate vamps and grunts the song’s title over & over. Next up, the chorale-and-heavy-riffology of ‘Please Don’t Drop the Bomb’ is pure early Funkadelic ambient ice-rink funk, whilst Side One closes with the three-and-a-half minutes of ‘Everywhere’, which – with its boys-being-chicks backing vocals and wide-eyed asides, sounds like a wonderful hybrid of John Sinclair’s super-exuberant late acolytes the Up playing a song by Leslie West’s soul garage outfit the Vagrants. Side Two opens with the ‘Knock On Wood-styled ‘What Would You Do?’, another lost classic riff, followed by the weird West Coast 9-minute free rock of ‘Doin’ It’, whose cheese-grater wa-guitars, bubbling bass, clatter-chatter drums and belltone blues lead axe all conspire to create a wild, almost proto-Comets on Fire rush that sounds like it coulda come off any of the best Detroit rock LPs anytime in the past 40 years. No wonder this record has been filed under ‘Rock’ on iTunes. Indeed, only on the 7-minute closer ‘Why Dontcha Show Me?’ does Nate return to his sultry soul roots. Commencing with a Ray Charles-styled piano-only opening coupla verses, this exquisitely crafted and sexy song suddenly metamorphoses into a percussion-heavy bossanova somewhere between Tim Buckley’s ‘Sweet Surrender’ and Timmy Thomas’s ‘Why Can’t We Live Together?’. This record is one mind-manifesting rock behemoth, but the confidence of this final statement lifts the entire LP up even another coupla notches.
And so there we have it for another month. With regard to where Nathaniel Mayer takes him next step, well, we probably shouldn’t set our hopes up too high considering Mayer’s first hit ‘Village of Love’ was way back in 1962, thereafter ambling and shambling through long periods of bandlessness, giglessness, even homelessness. However, even a perfunctory trawl through Nate’s current youtube performances suggests that this sexagenerian singer is once more enjoying himself enough to attempt to sustain what he’s currently achieving. And, on the huge evidence of this wonderful Album of the Month, we can only cross our fingers and selfishly hope that he barfs out a few more in this present stylee, before the (inevitable?) next crash. For the time being, however, we need only take a cursory glance at rock’n’roll history to feel a sense of optimism. For example, we only gotta look at Alex Harvey to see the renewal that an Old Timer could achieve just through taking on a much younger backing band. Later, at the inception of punk, mother-of-two Vi Subversa split up her cabaret duo and lead her own outfit the Poison Girls, all twenty-odd-years younger than her, and became the co-leader of the new punk alongside Crass. Unfortunately, we just have to hope that Nathaniel’s current ensemble can find time in their busy careers to stay around and keep him buoyant. What has made WHY DON’T YOU GIVE IT TO ME? so successful is the abandoned-yet-still-dignified character that Nathaniel brings to the party, so on the case that none of the producers has felt tempted to cast him as a mere eccentric outsider, a path trod by so many lesser talented or less honourably-minded mentors. Which is why this particular Album of the Month is so fucking refreshing, because – instead of recruiting as lead singer for their new project the local gangliest youth with the biggest garage rock LP collection in his basement, instead, several enlightened and currently successful rockers have come together to back a forgotten 64-year-old R&B singer, a man of undoubted song-writing talent and possessed of a genuinely extraordinary set of vocal chords, but whose luck has been intermittent to say the least. That three successful contemporary rock’n’rollers should have sought out and championed such a lost hero is heroic in itself, and Dan Auerbach, Troy and – most especially – Matthew Smith should be praised to the skies. That the chosen artist should rise to the occasion in such a manner is even more thrilling, which is why I say to Nathaniel Mayer:"Bravo, Lord Motherfucker, and deep gratitude for laying this Righteous Thang upon us."Amen. – Julian Cope / Head Heritage, album of the month
Nathaniel sounds like he’s on his last breath … and it’s a knockout, skanky moonshine stench to boot. All rasp and soul, Mayer is another dusted off geriatric corpse resurrected by young hipsters, and presented as an obscure missing link between rival garage punk, racy blues and Motown factions back in the day. Not so far fetched that last dog bone actually, as Mayer was indeed a bit of a shaker and a mover if not nationally then certainly regionally. Thankfully he still has enough chutzpa to demonstrate some stage skills the whipper snappers would do well to emulate. With solid backing from Detroit’s finest garage pranksters, he proves to be a capable frontman with enough moxie to deliver the goods, and then some. This really is one surprisingly fetching album. Move over Rudy Rae Moore and Andre Williams, the crazy, filthy old man soul revue tent is getting mighty crowded. – Hipcrank
Best known for the hit "Village of Love," soul shouter Nathaniel Mayer has quite an impressive ’60s discography behind him and after a few decades of lost time this record finds him ready to pick up where he left off. A marked improvement over his 2005 Fat Possum release, Mayer is backed up by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Detroit contingent of Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry), Troy Gregory (the Dirtbombs) and Dave Shelter (SSM). These guys know their stuff and they provide the perfect mix of sympathy and raunch for Nathaniel to outline his plans, pleas and female troubles on top of. It’s an excellent combo that let’s Mayer do what he does best while still delivering the goods in the rock action department. An overwhelming success across the board. – DMa / Other Music
At its origin point, rhythm-&-blues — or "soul" music — is merely a natural extension of the blues themselves. (Just listening to early Ray Charles, Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin is evidence enough that this is accurate.) Over time, however, like most genres of music, R&B has become just another watered-down offshoot of pop music. It will take more records like this one from Nathaniel Mayer to remind people of R&B’s natural roots. This music comes from a place that is more raw, nasty and authentic than most anything else labeled "R&B" these days, making it that much more valuable.
Mayer, a local soul legend in Detroit, has, alas, recorded only sporadically over the years, and while his past albums have been good, they could be seen as simply the Motown sound made grungy. This album, however, is something more. In the 1960s, young blues punks of the day such as Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, and the Rolling Stones teamed up with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to enliven the music of those giants and create something new for the younger generation to connect with. In the same way, on this album Mayer is backed by some of the young guns of the thriving Rust Belt music scene who’ve been mixing the blues and garage rock into a new, exciting sound. They include Matthew Smith, who also recently backed the late, idiosyncratic bluesman Paul "Wine" Jones on his final album, as well as Dan Auerbach of the phenomenal Black Keys. The resulting album is rough, ragged, and funky and may require repeated spins before the listener can acclimate. But even beyond that, it is a noteworthy step in the development of genuinely soulful music. Mayer, Smith and Auerbach are fighting to help this music survive, and their efforts are worthy of acclaim. – Nonzine
Why Don’t You Give it to Me?, the opening and title track offers a distinctive Black Keys riff from Dan Auerbach paired with a loose and dirty backbeat from the rhythm section (which features members of The Sights, Outrageous Cherry, and Dirtbombs). Then, placed high in the sonic mix, Mayer appears with his own loose and dirty snarl begging the question of the album’s title. During the garage-soul originals that follow, Mayer croons, howls, and whimpers through a varied sonic palette-the hand-clapping and jaunty "White Dress", the shuffling slow-burn "I’m a Lonely Man", and the psychedelics of the nine-minute "Doin’ It". The album closes with a reggae calypso cover of Delroy Wilson’s "Dancing Mood". By the end of these 40 minutes, you can almost smell the cigarette smoke, cheap scotch, cologne and sweat emanating from Mayer’s powder-blue polyester suit. C’mon, give the man some love. – Mark W. Adams / PopMatters
Using a voice that sounds like it was tuned with a rat-tail file, Mayer delivers with astonishing urgency; as if he has spotted a cuckolded husband with a .38 behind the trap set. It is heartening (and just a little frightening) to hear this veteran lothario howl, scratch and slink through songs of seduction when we would be more comfortable with him complaining about the service at Denny’s. Don’t think for a moment that this is a novelty record. Aside from being himself a staggering performer, Mayer benefits greatly from a backing band that, forgive me, should scare the reunited Stooges back into retirement. All members can claim superior blues/garage pedigree, but it’s enough to say they play like some bad mothers. Don’t believe me? Cue up "Doin’ It", (any guesses as to what that’s about?) which sounds like Booker T & The MG’s (circa Otis Redding Live in Monterey) in a streetfight with Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies. Find this record immediately and pray Nathaniel Mayer never comes courting your dear old Granny. – My Old Kentucky
This son of Detroit has recorded what is easily the best album of his career and very possibly one of the best rock/blues/soul/psychedelic albums I’ve ever heard. Why Don’t You Give It To Me? was born after the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, and Mayer performed together at NYC’s Knitting Factory and decided that they should take their scintillating steaming cauldron of music into the recording studio. Recorded in Mayer’s hometown of Detroit and produced by Matthew Smith, Dan Auerbach, and Dave Shettler this album is so great, so interesting, and so difficult to categorize.
Mayer opens with the pure funk and his trademark howls in the title song, and then immediately moves the listener out of complacency and into the intense rockabilly inspired "White Dress". He pays homage to his blues roots with the classic sound of "Please Don’t Drop the Bomb" and then surprises yet again with the opening jazzy riffs of "Doin’ It". The reggae inspired island beat of "Dancing Move" is reminiscent of UB40. It’s as though Hendrix, the Stooges, James Brown, RL Burnside, the Stray Cats, and UB40 all came together in a "best of" blend. This is an eclectic mix that works in the hands of this masterful vocalist. – Lynda Lippin /Blogcritics
Never the sweetest soul singer but always a vital one with his roots in the garage, he strains but never fails to nail these songs with an intensity and desperation that matches the playing. I’m thinking the lusting after pretty girls in "Everywhere I Go" sounds less The World’s Forgotten Boy than The Planet’s Horniest Old Man (with absolutely no apologies to Hugh Hefner.) Explosions anywhere above the waist seem the least of Meyer’s worries on "Please Don’t Drop The Bomb" and the old retrobate’s not asking for his lunch money and a pensioner’s concession fare on the bus home on "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?"-What a dirty old man. Just the sort of man the safety-first promoters need to bring out to Australia for the East Coast (aka "White Bread") Blues Festival. – I94 Bar
A dust of Blues, an ounce of Garage rock(!), an inch of soul, a cloud of genuis and savoir-faire … here’s the album of the year ! – GBR Zine
Nathaniel Mayer is a legend in soul music, though lesser known outside of the genre. Once known for his sweet soulful voice, there is little of that remaining on his latest effort, released 45 years after his most famous song, "Village of Love." His now thin, raspy voice may not be what older fans recall, but the raw Detroit soul recorded here should still take them back to the days when the town’s soul was so heavy that it influenced the burgeoning garage rock scene as much as it did the slicker Motown sound. In a sense, this record has as much to do with Mayer’s influence on the MC5 as it does with his influence on R&B and soul. (…) Why Don’t You Give It to Me? starts off with the title track, a straight blues number, and Mayer’s vocals are shocking to the point that it seems like a novelty. His voice is thin and gravely and fails to convey much. However, the ride changes its character as Mayer’s voice both improves and grows on you over the remaining eight tracks. Most of these take on a dark garage approach to soul music with loose, emotive rhythms and bluesy, psychedelic guitar. Mayer’s band is filled out with some exceptional musicians, most notably Dan Auerbach of garage rock purists, the Black Keys. It is Auerbach’s playing as much as Mayer’s voice that brings the most out of these songs and it’s no surprise that seven of the songs are group compositions. The closer is a cover of Delroy Wilson’s reggae classic, "Dancing Mood." It may seem an odd choice until you hear Mayer and company nail it as a reggae-tinged garage soul number. If nothing else, it solidifies the idea that the initial misgivings with the opener are misplaced. – Bob Lange / Rock & Roll and Meandering Nonsense
So the other day I got a package from Alive Records containing some new releases. This (Nathaniel Mayer) CD caught my attention immediately and, although I had a ton of other stuff to do, I immediately popped it in. What I heard proceeded to blow my mind. The first and title track of the record simultaneously reminded me of both "Exile on Mainstream" era Stones and the Stooges "Funhouse", except for that instead of a pompous, white youth pour his/her heart it out it was the gravely voice of the black man in his late 60's (…) "Why Don’t You Give To Me" easily comes across as a record from 40 years back. The recording brings to mind a thrown together, live in the studio affair straddling a line somewhere between a 60's psych/garage sound and something more akin to traditional blues. The song styles themselves range from Psych, Blues, Soul, Garage, Gospel Reggae and every shade in between but are all painted in heavy coats of vulnerability and emotion as if being pulled directly from Nathaniel’s soul. His voice is as gravely and war-torn as you’d expect from a 60+ year old Detroit native, but somehow the same "something" that gives Nay’s voice it’s "old, wise and lived through it all" qualities also makes him sound incredibly both young and forward-reaching. – Sailor Jerry Web
In a way, the album almost erases the singer’s actual past, reinventing Mayer as a blues legend and muddying the waters between yesterday and today. It’s an inspired concept, and Mayer and his backing band (three of whom double as producers), led by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach, pull it off brilliantly. Sliding from incendiary Delta blues — the sensationally smoldering title track — to the psychedelic-drenched jam of the phenomenal "Doin’ It," where Mayer struts back out his funkiest stuff, the group rides across the blues spectrum with abandon. Virtually the entire set was co-written with the bandmembers, whose own talents are showcased as sublimely as Mayer’s own. Each song has something to recommend it, be it the sultry late-’60s British blues beautifully delivered on the singalong "Please Don’t Drop the Bomb" or the blistering R&B of "White Dress." The set’s sole cover, of reggae star Delroy Wilson’s "Dancing Mood," is a definite surprise, and initially sounds terribly out of place with its syncopated rhythm and Western guitar, until Auerbach shifts into surf style and brings it back to the blissful blues. However, Mayer saves his best performance (and his piano skills) for his one independently written composition, "Why Don’t You Show Me," a truly showstopping number. The album captures all the excitement of the singer’s live performances, while never actually leaving the studio, with a group of tracks that already sound like classics — a stunning achievement from all involved. – Jo-Ann Greene / All Music Guide
The album is a magnificent blend of blues generations and in "Why Dontcha Show Me," Mayer really lets the band stretch their legs. The song begins with a two minute coda with just Mayer and a piano. That song slowly builds and you can feel the band ready to explode as Mayer slowly builds the tension. Its almost as if he has the young punks on the leash. They are itching to cut loose, but Mayer keeps everyone in line, like the alpha male in the pack. ‘Why Don’t You Give It To Me?’ is a tremendous album lead by a seasoned veteran of soul and backed by an all-star cast of the next generation of blues-rock young bloods. – HearYa
Propping an old-timer in front of a microphone is a gamble, and the results can either be exploitative or life affirming. Mayer’s new material is the latter, thanks in part to his group of musicians and songwriting partners, which includes members of Motor City garage-soul kings the Dirtbombs and SSM, as well as Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Mayer wears his weariness like a faded tuxedo, and on "I’m a Lonely Man" and "Everywhere I Go," he’s haunted by beautiful women past and present, respectively. His creaky, James Brown-like wheeze mixes like whiskey and soda with the group’s skuzzy playing. – Kenneth Partridge / The Hartford Courant
Those who recall Andre Williams’ collaborations with the Sadies will immediately get into this similarly unlikely coupling (as will Stooges fans) but the soul stirring results speak for themselves. Sure, throughout most of it Mayer’s voice is little more than a strained croak but the passion he puts into tracks like "Please Don’t Drop The Bomb" and the nine-minute "Doin’ It" is undeniable. – Jason Schneider / Exclaim
There’s lonely, and then there’s lonely as sung by Nathaniel Mayer. Backed by some heavy hitters in the modern garage rock scene, including Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry), Dave Shettler (SSM/The Sights), Troy Gregory (The Dirtbombs) and Akron’s own Dan Auerbach, no parentheses needed, this old-time soul singer howls out the pain along side some seriously dark and ominous rhythms. "I’m a Lonely Man" makes every other sad sack out there sound perfectly happy. – I Rock Cleveland
Fortune-ate comeback : read the Detroit Metro Times article about Nathaniel Mayer
Be careful when you pick up the new disc from the Motor City soul shouter Nathaniel Mayer. Bend your knees, don’t strain your back – the damn thing weighs a groovy ton. Mayer’s last album, the comeback-heralding ‘I Just Want to be Held’, from 2004, was no dainty affair. But this one, recorded with a backing band of rust-belt rockers and filthy with 1970 sweat, is heavy like Sonny Liston and just as rude (…) With few lyrics to remember, Mayer’s task is to stick to the varying grooves. ‘White Dress’ is hustling, clapping go-go rock. ‘Why Dontcha Show Me’ is a one-take – seemingly impromptu, with a saloon piano. ‘Dancing Mood’ has Ricky Nelson smoking some fine Jamaican weed on his way to a garden party. Things get weirdest on ‘Doin’ It,’ a hot-oil psychedelic freak-out that imagines Redd Foxx fronting a freestyle Cream. Redd Foxx. What was it that that old heart-clutching Fred Sanford used to say? Elizabeth, this is the big one? Yeah, that works. This album, it’s the big one. – Brad Wheeler / Globe and Mail
"Why Don’t You Give It to Me?" is smothered in scratchy riffs and grimy production, making it sound straight outta 1966. But this is no mere throwback to old-school R&B. The band (including the Keys’ Dan Auerbach, playing some very dirty guitar licks) kick-starts the 63-year-old Mayer, whose ravaged voice lends the songs the weathered rasp they require. – Clevescene
Nathaniel rips his heart out on this release and leaves the pumping organ spurting at his shoes. Refusing to temporize: he sinks his sharp surgical steel fangs into your gooseneck and leaves your withered carcass for the hipster vultures that only wish they have an ounce of his grit. Only for those who like it, dirty, sweaty and real. Added features include back up from members from SSM, Dirtbombs, Black Keys, and Outrageous Cherry. This one hurts. Hurts too good. – Christopher Duda / Sugarbuzz
Whattaya get when you musical talents Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry, Troy Gregory of the Dirtbombs, and Dave Shettler of SSM? Not a Detroit-area supergroup, but the backing band for Motor City soul legend Nathaniel Mayer. His new album Why Don’t You Give It To Me, due Aug. 21 on Alive Naturalsound, is a slap-yourself-silly-it’s-so-cool mélange of R&B, blues, funk and psychedelia.
For some sound sample previews, check out Mayer’s MySpace page. And for a terrific read on Mayer, surf over to this 2003 Mayer article in the Detroit Metro Times. "I want to get one more hit. Just let me get one more hit," Mayer says in the story. "Go out with a bang, man Moving, grooving. That’s the way I want to go out."
On the evidence presented by tunes such as the bloozy, boozy title track and the choogling "Everywhere I Go," we think he’s got that hit. – Fred Mills / Harp Magazine
40 years on from his R&B hits Detroit’s Mayer fuses soul with psychedelic rock. Co-conspirators include members of the Black Keys, Dirtbombs and SSM-kids half his age. They relentlessly rock their way through eight original soul stompers, plus a suprising cover of Delroy Wilson’s "Dancing Mood." Not quite "Electric Mud"- but close. – Mark Bliesener / Westworld
Mayer first met the Black Keys when the garage duo tapped him as the opening act for their November 2005 tour. Mayer, in turn, recruited Outrageous Cherry guitarist Matthew Smith, Dirtbombs bassist Troy Gregory and the Sights/SSM drummer Dave Shettler as his backing band, occasionally joined by Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach. "People would come up to us after the show and ask, ‘How long you guys been playing together?’ It was two weeks! We had been rehearsing together for two weeks!" Mayer, 63, tells Billboard.com. "They’re a great band, just a real different sound. It was beautiful."
After the dust settled, Mayer re-entered the studio with the same line-up and Auerbach, Smith and Shettler taking turns producing. According to Mayer, the resulting album mixes his love of funk a la James Brown with psychedelic, blues and garage. Most importantly for Mayer, the album serves as a good reason for him to indulge his true love, touring. "I love traveling so much. It makes coming home all the better," he laughs, adding that the band is considering recording a live album along the way. Though Mayer is still planning a tour for next month and then later in the year, he hopes the treks will include one spot that he hasn’t visited since 1962: New York’s Apollo Theater. – Katie Hasty / Billboard
If your tastes run toward nasty rhythm and blues with some raw, unrefined rock ‘n’ roll thrown in, the latest from Detroit soul revivalist Nathaniel Mayer may do the trick. But with vocals that make Tom Waits sound like Barry Manilow, "Why Don’t You Give It to Me" is not for the faint of heart. – Detroit Free Press
Mayer seems just as at home here as he does on those scratchy old Fortune 45s. – Ottawa Xpress
You want your rockin’ blues sweet and nasty? You say you want your R&B reverb-drenched in a sweaty roadhouse leaning against the juke box in hot pants? I think we got a tune for ya. Nathaniel Mayer lays it down proper with the Black Keys backin’ him up. In a dirty glass, bartender, please. – MP3forU
Solomon Burke may have set the gold standard for comeback soul albums a few years ago, when he released Don’t Give Up On Me, but Nathaniel Mayer is poised to give him a run for his money. Instead of borrowing tunes from Van Morrison, Brian Wilson, and Tom Waits, Mayer enlists background musicians from the Dirtbombs, Outrageous Cherry, and SSM. The result: desperate-sounding Detroit garage-soul. - MUSIC BLOG