The singer-songwriter's earnestness and tasteful, understated musicianship will win you over

By PEOPLE Music Critic Chuck Arnold
Updated May 18, 2012 04:45 PM
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“Make me feel as I am free/ Someone come speak for me.” Such is the gentle plea of John Mayer in his soothing, soulfully textured voice on the song “Speak for Me.”

Of course, the bitter irony is that this song – like all on his new album Born and Raised – was written and recorded before the singer-guitarist was sidelined by a throat nodule. He was on complete vocal rest after surgery last fall; after a recurrence, he still can’t sing live.

You gotta feel for the guy: This is a shimmering album, perfect for taking on the road in the glow of spring and summer.

Tunes like “Queen of California” – with its shades of ’70s soft rock – radiate a real warmth, as Mayer reflects on his time in the doghouse for bad behavior.

On “Shadow Days,” the sweetly contrite single, he sings, “I’m a good man with a good heart/ Had a tough time, got a rough start.”

With such earnestness and tasteful, understated musicianship, he wins you over.