The Mayes Brothers open up their record with a ‘Mayes Introduction’, somehow reminiscent of 70s soul groups like The Floaters, The Manhattans and The Persuaders. The EP from its opening is drenched in analogue reverb and starts with a cool crooning and an introductory statement. ‘We will sing for you tonight, about, you know about what, about love – we sat down and wrote this brief masterpiece as a special thing’ – Nigel introduces the album with this statement and he is completely right in his characterisation. This is a brief masterpiece, a snapshot of time out of time.
Love Sketches was produced in 5 days, the recording, arrangement, mixing and mastering of it. Soaked in the sublime soul stylings of the 70s, the main element of distinction on this record is the unique high registers of lead singer Nigel. His (actual) brother Harvey supplies backing vocals that bring a smooth balance to the songs on the EP. Nigel Ulysses Mayes (a superb pseudonym) and Harvey Melvin Mayes (a superb pseudonym) together bring an almost haunting warmth to the Motown genre that is so rarely carried throughout an entire record.
Roberta Flack, Otis Redding, The Isley Brothers and Al Green can all be heard making ghost appearances in the production style and vocal melodies. The simplicity and purity of Bill Withers ‘Grandmas Hands’, the depth and space of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Just to keep you satisfied’ and roughness and rawness of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bands ‘Ain’t no love in the heart of the city’, this record pays incredible homage to a coterie of excellent soul artists. There’s something of the recent Lee Fields albums on this record, a celebratory type of soul that borrows its production from the driving drums from hip hop. While their soul influences are splayed out on this EP for all to see it is this latter point that offers the project its edge.
Tackling the traditional but endless well of love inspiration, the record opens up with ‘Tell em, Tell em, Tell em (That You Love Me)’ that is replete with lyrical cliche. Yet, Nigels falsetto transforms the regular to the sublime, the unsanctified becomes the untouchably holy when he reaches the highest notes of his register. He calls out to his lover ‘tell them that you love me, tell them that you care’ – it’s content we’ve heard a thousand times before but never like this.
Picking up a little from the slow burn of the second track, ‘Now That You’re Gone’ is backed by a continuous percussive guitar melody that gives the song its drive. Nigel sings ‘baby you left me’, lamenting a lost love. It’s not with an apathy that he sings but an open madness ‘baby I’m crazy, now that you’re gone’. His falsetto tones all the while adding colour to the old cliche of being driven wild by the loss of lover.
The next sketch in the Mayes Brothers portfolio is Passionate Lover. With a funky bassline and the hook ‘You make me a passionate lover’, this song has a strutting arrogant groove that effortlessly interweaves with the pride of feeling in the lyrical content. The drums add a naturalistic timbre to the tone of song elucidating the passion.
The final song on the record ‘Ooh Ooh Ooh (Baby)’ borrows the same spacious naturalistic drums. Laid upon a dusty bassline and the crying vocal performance, this final song is a sparse arrangement. It’s a wordless call, that shows an entirely different type of passion, a kind of brooding addiction. The kind that hurts to be away from but also often hurts to be with. As the organ falls into the song, it picks up as the lead while Nigel speaks a language of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ that are as expressive, if not more, than any of the lyrics so far. It’s a sublime understanding of an ending – the record fades out with Nigel crooning into the distance. All elements slowly drifting off and his voice, the final one stays for much longer than the record plays.