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.
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.
Jim 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.
JIM JAMES TOUR DATES
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.
I started my morning with a hearty sing-in-the-shower rendition of “Angel From Montgomery” (those acoustics!) in the sticky warmth of Florida, and am ending it tonight back in the ten degree weather in clear cold Colorado. My sister asked over coffee what song I had been singing, and a discussion on John Prine followed. John Prine has stuck in my mind today, all his perfect lyrical constructions and simple folk truth, and was the soundtrack to my flight home this evening (while I finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and openly cried fat hot tears on the plane, but hey that’s another story).
If you own an old pickup truck (or can borrow one) to traverse some dusty roads in the countryside, this year’s Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows compilation of John Prine covers sounds especially good. The title of the album comes from the 1972 song “Souvenirs” (“Broken hearts and dirty windows / make life difficult to see”), and I’ve been meaning to mention this comp for months. The whole record is obviously rich because of the fodder to work with and the superb gathering of artists contributing, but I think Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band contribute my favorite cover of the bunch:
My car is stuck in Washington and I cannot find out why
Come sit beside me on the swing and watch the angels cry
It’s anybody’s ballgame, it’s everybody’s fight
And the streetlamp said as he nodded his head
It’s lonesome out tonight
Stylistically this absolutely fits in with the rollicking twang of their own compositions on 2008′s Outer South, and Conor’s caged, restless energy shines through brilliantly.
But there are so many great tracks on this collection, from the Avett Brothers singin’ about blowing up your TV and moving to the country, to Josh Ritter’s “Mexican Home” (which I got to see him perform live in Telluride), to My Morning Jacket’s “All The Best” (reminiscent of the golden buoyancy of the track they contributed to the I’m Not There soundtrack). Add to that a glowing Justin Vernon, the pensive Justin Townes Earle, the heartbreak of Deer Tick, then pin it all together with Prine’s first-rate songwriting and I am sold.
Stream the whole thing and buy it over on Bandcamp for just ten bucks. They’ve got it tagged with classifications of “indie, Nashville.” Sounds about right to me.
My only frown came from the fact that no one covered “Speed of The Sound of Loneliness,” my favorite Prine tune. Luckily Amos Lee did a perfect one in 2003:
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.”
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:
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.
I saw Grace Potter and the Nocturnals rock a bluesy, soulful set last night before a packed Ogden Theater. In addition to a powerful selection of songs from their own catalog, they worked in a ferocious cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black.”
Just listen to Grace wail on the line about, “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes…”
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
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.
Vacate is the word. Arriving at Coachella Sunday, the traffic was light, the sun was shining but not too intensely . . . and the extra ticket my friend had was pretty much impossible to give away. There were tens of thousands there to see some very fine bands for Sunday, but it was not packed-crowded. While surely this was not nice for the organizers, it was good for the dusty masses who were wedged together a little less tightly for the third and final day of Coachella 2008.
Sunday was also basically just The Day I met The Hoff. All else (including shaking Sean Penn’s hand and chatting with M. Ward) pales in direct comparison. It’s like if you look right at the sun and then try to focus on anything else. The brilliance of his tanned Hoff-dom made me want to run down the beach slow-motion in a red tank swimsuit. Oh wait!! Not really.
After unfortunately missing Brett Dennen who I was looking forward to, Sunday actually began with Sean Penn urging us to get on his Dirty Hands Caravan to New Orleans (which would be a cool six days if I could afford just to just up and go). Penn is actually quite a compelling speaker and I admired what he was trying to do. I hope he had some success with the Coachellans. And contrary to advance rumors, Penn brought no special musical guest with him, just his direct earnest stare and his impassioned speech.
Next up was a few fun songs from Detroit/Chicago hybrid duo The Cool Kids on the main stage. They’ve got an old-school hip hop feel with buckets of confidence. I know Chris over at Gorilla vs Bear has been a big fan, saying way back when that they reminded him of “a late ’80s EPMD joint produced by a low-budget version of the Neptunes.” Agreed – not a bad start. Those guys would be amazingly fun to see in a small club – maybe kind of like the time I saw Sugarhill Gang in a tiny (literally) underground club in Italy.
Heading back to the tents, my mind was sent reeling by Holy F*ck, whose brand of lo-fi improvisational electronica is anything but sterile. Watching them pour their hearts into their music, doubled over their machines, radiating intensity — and then hearing the warmly soaring sounds that emerge made me reconsider what’s possible with that genre. They closed with my favorite song of theirs (you must watch them do it) and I know it sounds a bit hyperbolic, but for those final five minutes my soul levitated a little.
I’d been looking forward to the gorgeous vocal interplay, catchy melodies and varied instrumentation of Canadian lush-pop band Stars. I’d caught their live set before, so I knew how engaging Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan’s shared verses and crowd banter could be. Their Set Yourself On Fire album is a favorite of mine and I loved hearing those songs live, alongside the new stuff.
A wandering jaunt backstage revealed a busy crew inflating and painting the massive pig for the Roger Waters set later that night, and the aforementioned Hoff and Penn (sounds like a Vegas magic trick duo). I also tried and clearly failed to suppress my glee at meeting M. Ward, who was waiting to join his friends from My Morning Jacket on stage for their sunset performance.
My Morning Jacket more or less melted my face off. I’d never seen them play live before but from the opening notes of “One Big Holiday” I was pulled into their vortex and duly impressed with how hard they rocked. As a live band MMJ is relentless and fiery and impassioned.
They played through several songs from their new album, which ranged from the fairly-traditional big alt-countrified sounds of “I’m Amazed,” the straight up funky falsetto of “Highly Suspicious,” and a gorgeous rendition of the title track “Evil Urges.” They range so effortlessly from the thrashing rock to the perfect burnished timbre of sunset vocals fading out into the air.
Jim James played a scorching solo while surveying his fifedom from the speaker stacks in his Skeletor boot tops.
M. Ward indeed came out for the second song,”Off The Record,” with little fanfare. M didn’t sing at all to my disappointment, but they had some intense moments of rocking out and clearly enjoyed playing together.
Finally, a slightly blurred (call it artistic) shot of MMJ as the last vestiges of light from Sunday vanished below the horizon. I’m behind them, looking out at the crowd. They played for just a shade under an hour, abruptly leaving the stage at three minutes til 8.
Now, by the time Roger Waters took the stage, everyone in the crowd seemed to fall into two categories, both equally lethargic:
a) those who were doing some form of mood- or mind-altering drugs (not me Mom!) in what one of my friends commented was surely the densest concentration in the world at that moment in time of high people
b) those who were completely wiped out, who wanted nothing more than to lay on the grass somewhere and watch Roger Waters’ bi-plane drop confetti on us that turned out to be Obama fliers. We were glad it wasn’t biological warfare, which was honestly my first thought.
So while Waters took Coachella to the dark side of the moon, freaked with our minds with the surround sound effects, and released the giant pig that apparently got a bit out of control, I laid in the cooling grass that was just starting to be damp with dew and waited for the Tesla coils to go off, shooting blue-green lightning from coil to sky to earth. They never did for me, not that night.
So I guess that means I’ll be back.
And finally –randomly but perfectly– the song that was looping through my head all that last night:
“What a beautiful face I have found in this place That is circling all around the sun What a beautiful dream that could flash on the screen In a blink of an eye and be gone from me Soft and sweet Let me hold it close and keep it here with me
And one day we will die and our ashes will fly From the aeroplane over the sea But for now we are young Let us lay in the sun And count every beautiful thing we can see Love to be In the arms of all I’m keeping here with me
What a curious life we have found here tonight There is music that sounds from the street There are lights in the clouds and there’s ghosts all around Hear a voice as it’s rolling and ringing through me Soft and sweet How the notes all bend and reach above the trees. . .”
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..."
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