Kentucky bred singer/songwriter/guitar player, Jim James’ second solo album is a gem of soul/rock experimentalism.
James, the frontman of My Morning Jacket, takes that band’s unique song-driven jam ethic and distills it into the dreamy melodicism of Eternally Even.
James steers the psychedelic undertow of his album in expressive ways with the sympathetic help of in-demand producer Blake Mills, a stalwart presence on the southern rock/soul circuit.
Hide in Plain Sight is bathed in otherworldly keyboards and ghetto movie guitars, presided over by James’ conversational vocal.
It’s mellow with an edge as is its successor Same Old Lie, with James kicking away at apathy over a bed of old-school electric guitars and organs.
James has leaned heavily on a gumbo of ‘70s’ sound tracks, soul/rock fusion and muted psychedelia to deliver a message of protest, peace and brotherhood.
These are evident in the hazy funk of the Sly Stone influenced, The World’s Smiling Now and the churchy progression of Here in Spirit.
The urging lyrics of the latter call for a get up and get out mentality: “If you don’t speak out, we can’t hear it/For all those who came before,/Here in spirit.”
The songs and sounds contain familiarity (the warm arrangements and James’ vocal messages) and discovery (the restrained jams and the melodic soul/psych instrumental bedrock).
The thematic nature of Eternally Even is unintentional but is realized by the bonding character of James’ groovy songs and gauzy sounds. Most importantly, they capture a sense of yearning and discontent under the social surface these days.
– Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music for The Morning Star.