Maybe John Mayer is finally catching on.
He launches his sixth album, "Paradise Valley" (Columbia) -- the first since undergoing voice-threatening surgery to remove a granuloma on one of his vocal cords and the second since his career-threatening interview with Playboy, when he offered what some considered racist and sexist comments -- with what he does best. Say what you need to say about Mayer, he is a gifted guitarist and a skillful interpreter of the blues.
And he makes the most of those talents here, starting with the folk-tinged blues of "Wildfire" and "Badge and Gun," which would fit nicely on Bob Dylan's latest albums. The lovely Americana closer "On the Way Home" puts Mayer in the same radio-friendly folk category as Mumford and Sons and Phillip Phillips. The album's most effective song, though, is when Frank Ocean sings "Wildfire" and Mayer backs him up.
Of course, Mayer can't give up his love of controversy completely, taking Taylor Swift to task in the thinly veiled put-down "Paper Doll." His collaboration with current girlfriend Katy Perry, "Who You Love" doesn't turn out any better, as they coo at each other on the bland ballad. Then, there's the odd mix of cliches in "I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)," where Mayer sings, "I'm a little lost at sea. I'm a little birdie in a big old tree. Ain't nobody looking for me here out on the highway."
Yes, Mayer may still be a little lost. But "Paradise Valley" shows he may soon find his way.
THE GRADE B-
BOTTOM LINE Trying to charm his way back into music fans' hearts