My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves

My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves

Kentucky-bound singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jim James is yet another guitar hero attracted to big sounds with country tinges, which let his twang drift outward and upward until it fills the atmosphere. Accordingly, James' band My Morning Jacket has drawn comparisons to the epic country-rock thump of Neil Young, but the group sounds more like secondhand Young, perhaps borrowed from Mark Kozelek's somber, hypnotic Red House Painters. The difference, at least on It Still Moves, is that James captures Young and Kozelek's tone and texture without adopting their personalities. It Still Moves is more lilting than its influences: Its debt to the joyous Americana of The Band is evident in the generous piano and brass coda of "Dancefloors," and in the brightly folky "Golden," which equates the open road with great sex, making its point by mating strings with slide guitar. My Morning Jacket creates cavernous spaces for James to fill, and the guitarist (alongside Johnny Quaid) approaches each opening a little differently, from the quixotic arpeggios of "One Big Holiday" to the Dylan-esque rumble of "Easy Morning Rebel" to the sorrowful pluck and slide of "Steam Engine." Like a lot of bands that favor warm droning, My Morning Jacket doesn't do enough with rhythm; drummer Patrick Hallahan doesn't swing as much as he should, and the times when bassist Two-Tone Tommy breaks from a lockstep beat to follow his own melody show him to be an underused asset. But the monumental feeling works well on loping weepers like the slow-building "Rollin' Back," and on heavy, resounding rock anthems like "Run Thru," which sounds like something pieced together from the vaults of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jefferson Airplane, with a tribal interlude that would suit Jane's Addiction. It Still Moves courts the easygoing, the wistful, and the devastating all at once, and the group's strange, wonderful gift is that it understands how those three moods are all shades of the same blue.

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