TRY!

-- For JAM! Music

, Last Updated: 3:28 PM ET


John Mayer Trio
Try!
(Sony-BMG)

John Mayer's got it tough.

He's penned popular, Grammy-winning songs and has his mug plastered on dorm room walls across the country. But unlike other Top 40 songsmiths, Mayer has sought out serious musical credibility; quietly ensconcing himself with some of music's legends (he has recorded with B.B. King and Herbie Hancock, among others) in the hopes that he can prove himself worthy to the heir-to-Stevie-Ray-Vaughan title that was thrown at him early in his career.

So just how does college pop's saviour show listeners he's a true musical genius, with razzle-dazzle licks not to be messed with? In Mayer's case, he cuts the fat.

Eschewing the horn and keyboard sections, which dot his solo material, the singer-songwriter tapped veteran session players - drummer Steve Jordan and Who bassist Pino Palladino - and launched a fall tour under the moniker: John Mayer Trio.

Cynics might see this as Mayer's grab to be taken seriously by music snobs (who've so far dismissed MuchMoreMusic-friendly ditties like "Your Body is a Wonderland"), and they'd be partially right.

The recently released "Try!" (recorded at Chicago's House of Blues last September) shows Mayer flexing his guitar might on his cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Wait Until Tomorrow," and reinterpreting his own pop-styled "Something's Missing" (from 2003's "Heavier Things") with downtempo catchiness. But the songs on this record show Mayer can easily pen sturdy guitar-driven numbers, and serve as a constant reminder that he's the future of pop blues.

Opening with the Hendrix-meets-Stevie-Ray-Vaughan sounding "Who Do You Think I Was," the live set captures the threesome ripping through 11 songs of mostly originals. "Good Love Is On The Way" lets Mayer try his hand at barroom blues ("You can have all the things up my sleeve/ I don't need them anymore," he sings over a soaring guitar track). "Gravity" is a soulful ballad, while "Another Kind Of Green" recreates the acoustic flare of Mayer's "3X5" in an electric setting. He sounds positively Stevie Ray-like, mixing the late singer's gritty yodel with his own piercing guitar melody on "Out Of My Mind." And showing he knows how to funk with the best, Mayer knocks Kanye West and Jamie Foxx on their behinds with his own sleek reading of Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman."

For those who like hearing Mayer's gravely voice an octave higher, your ears will perk up during the percussive "Vultures." But the album's standout tracks are left for the end. First, he mounts a bluesy reinterpretation of his pop ballad "Daughters." Then there's the fast moving title track, which builds a slinky guitar shuffle into one of Mayer's most distinguished solos.

Hardcore fans of his blues-lite studio work might not fully get it, but they can rest easy. Mayer's next studio album - "Continuum" - is due in stores early next year.

Track Listing:

1. Who Do You Think I Was
2. Good Love Is On The Way
3. Wait Until Tomorrow
4. Gravity
5. Vultures
6. Out Of My Mind
7. Another Kind Of Green
8. I Got A Woman
9. Something's Missing
10. Daughters
11. Try


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