Jim James reaches new electronic heights on his solo debut "Regions of Light and Sound of God."
James has served as lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter with the progressive indie folk band My Morning Jacket for the past 15 years. On his first solo album released Feb. 5 on ATO Records, James branches out further into the realms of acoustic, electronic, funk and psychedelia. The audience should expect nothing less from an album which was influenced by the 1929 graphic novel "God's Man," by Lynd Ward.
My Morning Jacket has always let its intuition lead the band into creative territories while staying close to its rock roots. With the band, James provided clear and passionate vocals for six albums that have ranged in tone from wildly psychedelic to digging deep in the southern rock sound.
In 2009 James joined Monsters of Folk, which included Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes and singer-songwriter M. Ward. In the same year, he released "Tribute To," a 6-track reel-to-reel recording of George Harrison songs released under the pseudonym Yim Yames. The same name appears on "New Multitudes," a collaborative album of new music recorded with Woody Guthrie lyrics to commemorate the folk hero's 100th birthday. James also sang a memorable cover of "Going to Acapulco," by Bob Dylan in the film "I'm Not There," loosely based on Dylan's life.
On his latest album, James utilizes all the skills in his repertoire throughout the nine tracks. He displays guitar chops on "Dear One" also includes an entirely acoustic instrumental, "Exploding." There is also some beautiful guitar work at play in the background melody on "Of the Mother Again."
Most fans will find comfort in the use of echoes and funky bass lines that were familiar on My Morning Jacket albums, but the album takes on a much more heavy and modern tone than we have heard from the artist previously right from the first track, "State of the Art - A.E.I.O.U.".
"A New Life," is one of the standout songs on this album. It begins with James singing over an acoustic guitar then builds a warm, upbeat tempo. It shifts gears when the vibraphone kicks and somewhere near the third act develops a full-on Motown feel that is so great it makes me forget how much I like the opening.
One of my favorite moments on the album is when the funky beat on "Know Til Now," fully kicks in on the first bridge. The song itself is driven by the bass line and the synthesizer then closes with a melodic saxophone solo played over a distorted layer of instrumentation that gives it a ragtime jazz feel.
This was one of those albums that is enhanced by a good set of headphones and I enjoyed it more with each subsequent listen. "Regions of Light and Sound of God" is a solid album from start to finish and will positively impact the direction of My Morning Jacket when James rejoins the band.
James played "A New Life,"with the Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Monday, Feb. 4 which you can watch below. He'll be playing a sold out show Monday, Feb. 18 at Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia.
What's your favorite song on Jim James' debut solo album? Comment on Twitter @DBCurrent #TheHighNote
Read the High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on www.shorenewstoday.com.
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