February 8, 2013

there’s much more stardust when you’re near

Jim James delivered one of my favorite live late-night performances earlier this week on Fallon (who hosts Night Beds tonight). There is such blissful joy in this performance, especially at the end when it all explodes in a dazzling burst of orchestral happiness with The Roots and all their instrument-wielding band-geek friends, apparently. Jim also seems to be radiating peace — and not just because of his passing resemblance to a certain messiah.

A New Life (live on Fallon with The Roots) – Jim James

I am somewhat obsessed with this completely magnificent song; isn’t it just a perfect way to start the year? Used hearts, fresh starts, and all.

cover art with no textJim James’ debut solo record Regions of Light and Sound of God came out earlier this week, and has set me off on a Jim James / Yim Yames / My Morning Jacket listening binge. I’m especially re-crushing terribly on The Tennessee Fire — every song on there just….geez. Jim’s on tour, let’s get him in the chapel, stat.

2/18: Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s SOLD OUT
2/19: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg SOLD OUT
2/20: New York, NY @ McKittrick Hotel SOLD OUT
4/17: Louisville, KY @ Brown Theatre
4/19: Milwaukee, WI @ The Pabst Theater
4/20: Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
4/21: Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
4/23: Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
4/24: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
4/26: Boston, MA @ Royale
4/27: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
4/29: New York, NY @ Webster Hall
4/30: Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
5/2: Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
5/3: Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
5/4-5/5: Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Music Festival
5/6: Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheatre
5/7: Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
5/9: Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
5/11: Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
5/12: San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
5/14: Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
5/15: Seattle, WA @ Neptune

Also, as a Friday bonus, if you like “A New Life,” relisten to this 2007 Magnet song from Norwegian shores; my brain pleasantly linked the percussive feel in them.

The Gospel Song – Magnet

February 22, 2012

change the things your heart desires

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Sometimes an album pops in your mailbox at midnight on a Sunday when you stop into the harshly-lit post office, and you find yourself wishing there was anyone else in the building to excitedly bubble over to: “Sweet jesus, did you see who is on this record?!”

Advance warning of the incredible New Multitudes record escaped me until this weekend: a dream-team collaboration between Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket), Will Johnson (Centro-Matic), Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt), and Anders Parker. Right!?

I listened straightaway, late into that night, and my first thought was how much it reminded me of the rambling, haunting joy found in the Kerouac-sourced (and also California-focused) record that Farrar made with Ben Gibbard, and also of course of Wilco’s collaborations with Billy Bragg on the Mermaid Avenue records. This July would have been Woody’s 100th birthday, so the record was intended as part of the celebration of the immeasurable mark he left on American songwriting.

As she did to jumpstart Mermaid Avenue, Woody’s daughter Nora chose these four musicians to pore through more than 3,000 of her father’s unrecorded lyrics (many from his earliest songwriting days in Los Angeles), and use them as fodder to create new songs. After diving into boxes of diaries, notebook, handwritten scraps, typed and coffee-stained pages, Farrar decided to focus the songwriting on Woody’s California period. That sounds like an amenable decision to this California girl.

Stylistically, there’s all sorts of wonderful stuff happening on this record, but that lack of coherence adamantly doesn’t work to the album’s detriment. We’ve got the African-inspired/Graceland feel of Yim Yames’ “Changing World,” the slow-burn Texas desert sadness of Johnson’s “Careless Reckless Love” (always the hardest way to do it), or the bouyancy of Farrar’s “Hoping Machine” (reference #19 on this fantastic meme). There is an intuitive chemistry and threads of collaboration all throughout this record, regardless of who sings lead vocals, or who wrote the music.

Changing World – Yim Yames

“No Fear” sounds just like something you’d want to sing at the end of a Sunday southern church service, an old spiritual with all four of their voices rising. “Chorine My Sheba Queen” by Johnson will, I promise, break your heart (and the provenance story will make your pulse race a little).

I’m still absorbing this record, but so far it couldn’t be more fantastic.

LISTEN NOW: You can stream the entire record thanks to Conan, and order it immediately here. It’s out next week on Rounder Records; the bonus disc version will have 24 songs total, and the artwork is also by Woody.

March 6 – The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
March 7 – Music Box – Los Angeles, CA
March 9 – Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
March 10 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
March 12 – The Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
March 13 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
March 14 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
March 16 – Paradise – Boston, MA

PS: In Jay Farrar/Colorado news: Did you see that Son Volt is headlining the Meadowgrass Festival in Colorado Springs/Black Forest this Memorial Day Weekend? Damien Jurado last year, Son Volt this year — way to go organizers!

January 10, 2010

Ben Sollee & Jim James

ben sollee

Speaking of Jim James (or Yim Yames, as he seems to be going by fulltime these days), the My Morning Jacket frontman is producing the newest record from classically-trained cellist Ben Sollee and hushed folkie Daniel Martin Moore. The collaboration will be the follow-up to Sollee’s Learning to Bend and Moore’s pensive Sub Pop debut Stray Age (both in 2008).

Reinforcing my love of Kentucky lately, all these fellas know each other from the Louisville music scene and recorded this album early last year in their home state. On the resulting album, the songs are written and performed by Sollee and Moore, produced by and featuring Yim Yames. Sounds like an excellent idea to me.

PrintDear Companion is out on Sub Pop on February 16th, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Appalachian Voices, an organization devoted to ending mountaintop removal coal mining in central Appalachia.

And if I wounded you, I’m sorry
I had good intentions
If I wounded you, I’m sorry — it happens all the time

Something, Somewhere, Sometime – Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore

You may also recall that the James/Sollee pair already recorded a fantastic, political folk duet “Only A Song” in 2008, full of hope and optimism, released on Election Day. And although I missed Sollee’s recent swing through Colorado, I loved seeing him last winter with Abigail Washburn and her Appalachian-Chinese folk music blend.

BONUS: I also so adore this one. His voice is distinctive, and almost haunting here.

Panning for Gold (Computer vs. Banjo remix) – Ben Sollee

Jan 20 – Iron Horse Music Hall, Northhampton, MA *
Jan 21 – Ifinity Hall, Norfolk, CT *
Jan 22 – Fairfield Theater, Fairfield, CT *
Jan 24 – Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ *
Jan 26 – One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME *
Jan 27 – Club Passim, Cambridge, MA *
Jan 29 – IOTA, Arlington, VA *
Jan 30 – Arden Concert Guild, Arden, DE *
Jan 31 – The Southern, Charlottesville, VA *
Feb 2 – Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA #
Feb 3 – Wealthy Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI #
Feb 4 – Callahan’s, Auburn Hills, MI #
Feb 5 – The Livery, Benton Harbor, MI #
Feb 6 – Kent Stage, Kent, OH #

*with Carrie Rodriguez
# with Erin McKeown and Carrie Rodriguez

it’s a meaning that I understand

Why’s it so strange when they say that the world’s moving upwards?
why’s it surreal when my hands feel they can’t roll the dice?
why’s it so great just to wake every day alive and by your side?
It’s a mystery I guess, there’s lots of things I can’t find
its not the way that you look, but your move that catches my eye

Why’s it so soft when the cannons unload on the others?
Why’re we so loud when we say it won’t happen to us?
Why does my mind blow to bits every time they play that song?

It’s just the way that he sings
not the words that he says or the band
I’m in love with this soul, it’s a meaning that I understand

The Way That He Sings (acoustic) – My Morning Jacket
(Up Cripple Creek version)

A stunning rendition from a rad acoustic set by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, at a tiny bar in Louisville, Kentucky a few months back. Jim surely possesses one of the most affecting and astounding voices in all of rockdom today, and I got tingles at the way the crowd fills right in with the background chant that I’ve always heard as “ah he don’t know, no….” Wonderful. I would have given a small body part to maybe be there.

Jim James also announced a new record label endeavor last week, a joint project between him and former My Morning Jacket guitarist Johnny Quaid. Read more at the Removador Records website; they aim to bring you “some of the coldest music you ain’t never heard.”

[video via pacing the cage]

July 13, 2009

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloudburst doesn’t last all day


From the new EP of George Harrison/Beatles covers by My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James (under the clever, throw-them-off-the-scent moniker of Yim Yames), this song feels like a much-needed salve on my rawness today:

All Things Must Pass (George Harrison cover) – Yim Yames

Sometimes I am glad I don’t know the fancy tricks of studio recording, and how they make Jim’s voice sound like it is coming to me from somewhere outside time, like it was created to someday record this song about the temporal nature of the evening, a cloudburst, love, our lives.

I’m sure it has something to do with reverb and certain knobby magic on the console, but the golden-red aura of his voice is truly exceptional here, and it feels like some kind of hope breaking through.

All the tracks are thoroughly gorgeous, and the EP is available now for just a handful of dollars.


October 27, 2008

“Only A Song” :: Ben Sollee and Jim James (My Morning Jacket)

After the the earnest beauty in his last album Learning To Bend (which included that Southern-sweet cover of “A Change Is Gonna Come“), Kentucky’s Ben Sollee is back this month with a 2-song EP, currently available only on tour.

The opening track finds Sollee pairing with another musician friend from Louisville that you may know: Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Their simply-strummed acoustic duet blends Sollee’s gentle musings of optimism with Jim’s distinctively gorgeous harmonies. It is a timely song of hope in the face of seemingly overwhelming hopelessness.

I wouldn’t make a sound if I wasn’t so angry
I wouldn’t be running if there wasn’t so far to go
I wouldn’t keep on if there wasn’t something worth keeping
I want to believe the mountain can be moved

But this is only a song
It can’t change the world

But why try? Why even sing at all?
… There is beauty in freedom and folks like me

Came over on boats, flew in on planes, crawled under fences and fought wars
to find some unity

Only A Song – Ben Sollee and Jim James

1 Nov – Louisville KY / 930 Listening Room w/ Bootsie Ann
5 Nov – Nashville TN / The Basement
6 Nov – Atlanta GA / The 5 Spot
7 Nov – Chapel Hill NC / Nightlight
8 Nov – Washington DC / Iota
11 Nov – Brooklyn NY / The Bell House
12 Nov – New York NY / Mercury Lounge
13 Nov – Boston MA / Great Scott
14 Nov – Philadelphia PA / World Cafe Live
15 Nov – Pittsburgh PA / Club Cafe
17 Nov – Chicago IL / Schuba’s
18 Nov – Minneapolis MN / 400 Club
21 Nov – Seattle WA / TBA
22 Nov – Portland OR / Balcony Bar At The Hawthorne Theatre
24 Nov РSan Francisco CA / Caf̩ Du Nord
25 Nov РLos Angeles CA / Hotel Caf̩

June 3, 2008

Got forty-fives to play at night :: M Ward / Jim James / Conor Oberst live in 2004

This earthy, warm, rich bootleg is from a shared evening of music that included sets from M. Ward, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.

Billed as the “Monsters of Folk” tour, after individual sets it closes with a six-song jam session where they all play together and sometimes (like for the closing Dylan cover) take turns with the verses. The sound quality here is sparkling and pristine with some choice song selections in the mix. Any of their single sets would be a treat in its own right; together they blow my mind a little bit.

Notable track: that Willie Nelson cover! “Always on My Mind” is one of my favorite sad songs as is, but with Jim James taking the lead vocals it aches and ebbs in a new way. There are so many wonderfully melancholy songs in this bunch – in addition to the lonesome starter of “Fuel for Fire,” the way M. Ward’s voice cracks on Undertaker (“Ah, but if you’re gonna leeeeeeaaaaave, you better call the undertaker, take me under undertaker, take me home“) is practically the sound of a heart breaking.

Feb 20, 2004, Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis

Fuel For Fire
Duet for Guitars #3
Let’s Dance (Bowie cover)
O’Brien/O’Brien’s Nocturne
Vincent O’Brien
Outta My Head

One In The Same
Like It Should (unreleased?)
I Can’t Wait (unreleased?)
Where To Begin (from the Elizabethtown sdtrk)
How Could I Know (b-side from Off The Record)
The Bear
Bermuda Highway

Train Under Water
Going for the Gold (from the Oh Holy Fools comp)
Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man
A Celebration Upon Completion
We Are Nowhere And It’s Now
Landlocked Blues (oh how I love this song)
Waste of Paint

Seashell Tale (M Ward song)
Always On My Mind (Willie Nelson cover)
Laura Laurent (Bright Eyes song)
At Dawn (MMJ song)
At The Bottom Of Everything (Bright Eyes song)
Girl Of The North Country (Bob Dylan cover)

(re-upped, the individual links are removed)

(Note: Mike Mogis and Nick White also performed at this show)

[thanks to
the original taper]

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →