Jim James – [Album]

Friday, 08 February 2013

Speaking as a confirmed critic of just about everything My Morning Jacket has ever affixed its name to, I must confess that I really wasn't expecting much from singer Jim James' new solo album (his third), Regions Of Light And Sound Of God. I mean, when your main band is already riding a polished and shiny re-imagining of everything that was hippy, dippy, trippy and folky about the 1960s and '70s and your first side project (Monsters Of Folk) is working on a similar vein but adding a little extra new roots flavor as well as a few other big names from the Americana scene for scenester appeal, where would one logically assume that an artist's passions tend to lead him? To more of the same? Well, the truth is that Regions Of Light And Sound Of God does work on similar ground to that broken by MMJ and MOF but, perhaps because none of the other personalities associated with any of the other acts the guitarist is part of (no Blankenship, Hallahan, Koster, Broemel, Ward, Oberst or Mogis here) appear on this album, it is not at all the same; in fact this new record marks a significant improvement in the presentation of the creative powers of Jim James.

Listeners will be able to mark an impressive difference in Jim James' approach to the songs on Regions Of Light And Sound Of God from the moment “State Of The Art” begins to aerate into being with some warm and soothing atmospherics to open the album. Here, the dippy hippy nu-folky Americana nonsense that My Morning Jacket has always played around with is present, but the focus has improved (read: it doesn't look at only being ironic) and so enhances the experience; rather than trying to rewrite the books on folk and rock, this album tries to play with those time-honored paradigms to make something new. In this beginning, lines like, “A life worth livin' – now you can feel it in your chest” and “I use my state of the art technology/ Supposed to make for better livin'/ But are we better human beings?” suddenly feel like new calling cards for a revitalized music genre as they roll out. Those lines may not sound complicated, but the result is captivating and, even then, listeners will know that they'll be able to find satisfaction here on this record; James is already working his way toward that end.

After “State Of The Art” sets the mood and air, listeners will be able to feel James' hypnosis of them deepen and become more gratifying as songs like “A New Life,” “Of The Mother Again,” “Actress” and “All Is Forgiven” immerse them in sensory depriving, watery effects, and pull them along through this run-time with some of the most cathartic and soulful vocal melodies the singer has ever committed to tape. The result is a perfectly beautiful listen which holds listeners dearly and never accidentally puts listeners off with some crass or abhorrent rocky turn (which has historically been what My Morning Jacket has been given to doing) or loses them along the way with a drawn out instrumental passage; every turn here is carefully measured to make sure no listener gets left behind. The care James takes here guarantees that those who start listening are engaged to follow the record all the way through – many times.

All of those reasons listed above outline why, for my money, Regions Of Light And Sound Of God is a great record, but (of course) there will be some detractors who scoff and complain that Jim James has pandered to listeners too much with this record, put too much of a soul influence into it and not enough rock, and made the listening experience too easy and too smooth. To them I say, “Really? If you wanted a My Morning Jacket album, why wouldn't you just listen to My Morning Jacket?” Some critics may say that Regions Of Light And Sound Of God is like My Morning Jacket with training wheels, but I say that Jim James sounds better this way.


Jim James –
“Know 'Til Now" – Regions Of Light And Sound Of God [mp3]


Regions Of Light And Sound Of God
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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