My Morning Jacket's Jim James Is Still Searching for Transcendence
The album art for Jim James' solo record, Eternally Even.
In 1979, a group of brothers and cousins (and an unrelated guitarist) from the Witness of Jesus Christ
church in Fresno, California, recorded an album as the Supreme Jubilees.
Self-released in 1980, the record weds funk and disco grooves to end-of-days testifying. On the title track, “It’ll All Be Over,” the combo interweaves its voices in harmony over a mournful electric piano. Inspired by a spiritual encounter by group leader Leonard Sanders in his dreams, the song forecasts a day when all pain and suffering ceases. It’s beautiful, but also apocalyptic.
On Eternally Even, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James samples “It’ll All Be Over.” His song’s called “The World’s Smiling Now,” and like the rest
In some ways, it picks up where his first full-length solo outing, 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God, left off, exploring
On “Same Old Lie,” he asks, “Is there any peace to be found in a lifetime?” It’s a bracing statement from James, usually packing a certain Aquarian sweetness in his songs with My Morning Jacket. And while there’s hope lingering on the edges of these songs too, the LP finds him confronting greed and the lingering threat of destruction with bleak, spooky language. “You can talk about it all you want / But what the fuck you’re gonna do / Time’s your oyster / The grave is always getting closer,” he promises on “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger Pt. 2.”
Working with producer Blake Mills, known for his work on Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, James crafts an instrumental template suitable
The sumptuousness conjured up by James and Mills provides much of the redemption James resists providing lyrically. (The bass on “In the Moment” begs to be isolated for a YouTube video and studied.) But even as he reflects on “guns, blood, and sorrow,” James keeps the search up for moments of reflection and transcendence. He finds some of it in the closing song, the title track, where he duets with Kentucky’s Joan Shelly singing, “Walking in the shadows, I see clearly / I’m walking in the light.”
The dark and the light co-mingle in apocalyptic literature, the promise of deliverance after
Jim James is scheduled to perform Sunday, December 11, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
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