My Morning Jacket

Record Review

Phases and Stages

My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves (ATO/RCA) Echo. Jimmy James' reverb wail, Jimmy James' nostalgic moan, Jimmy James' lovelorn cry. Jimmy James' bursting soul. Falling hopelessly in love with the Louisville, Ky., visionary is as simple as surrendering one's virtue to Jeff Tweedy or Neil Young. Love at first swoon. Frontman/songwriter/producer James and his fellowship of Southern gentleman cotton to their own mistress on the quintet's third LP, pledging their sovereignty to the nomadic existence of touring. "In my blood there's gasoline, for an urban boy on a dirty tour I never felt so clean," sings James on the piano-stepping "Dancefloors," romanticizing further on follow-up "Golden" ("We'll go through this thing together, and on heaven's golden shore we'll lay our heads"). James leans toward West Coast wistful, Bread's David Gates with more fiber, but MMJ comes by their own case of DBTs naturally; verse, chorus, verse, lift-off -- horns, mandolins, rebel guitars, and a Soft Bulletin whomp. The spaciousness of James' yearning borders on the mystical, imbuing It Still Moves with its contemplative nature, demonstrated by blurred, bubbling "I Will Sing You Songs," all nine Christmas-morning minutes of it. Some would no doubt trade patches of this 72-minute sprawl ("Rollin Back," "Just One Thing," "Steam Engine") for anthems, and the fact that the album ends with a (lovely) sigh not a bang. Then again, it's hard not to yee-haw when a tune like "Run Thru" ("Oh shit run!") bursts into flames like the aftermath of the 1906 S.F. earthquake. Ditto for the Muscle Shoals' flex of "Easy Morning Rebel," another horn-floored stomp. Needling hill-country flyer "One Big Holiday," and the Skynyrd-like plumes of lead axes rising full-throttle, exhilarate. We'll be the Grand Canyon, Jimmy. You and the boys just keep singing. (My Morning Jacket plays the Mercury Oct. 16-17.)

***.5

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