*** (out of 4)
My Morning Jacket have always offered something of a mystical experience. Maybe it's the specter of the South that floats over the Kentucky band’s music. Maybe it's just singer Jim James' voice, which is best described as celestial.
Either way, to suggest (as some have) that it's a radical departure for James to head down a more spiritual road on his solo debut, “Regions of Light and Sounds of God,” would not be wholly accurate. Reportedly inspired by an old book about an artist's battle with demons, the album simply places its cosmic journey in a more approachable environment, moving from MMJ's druid circle incantations to more of a one-room rural church.
The mood is relaxed but intent from the first spare piano plunks of “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” –James is a subtle and loving guide through his personal universe, which echoes MMJ while evoking touchstones like Van Morrison and late-period Beatles. When he intones “let's get one thing clear/there's much more stardust when you're near” on “A New Life,” it's intimate, celebratory and cautionary all at once, a suspended mood that blossoms fully in the song's final horn salvo.
While there's a persistent threat that the album will get too precious or too self-involved, James treads those boundaries with grace, finding his most comfortable operating mode in the warm, transcendental spirituality and the syncopated riffs on “Of the Mother Again.” The song exudes a calm satisfaction in the idea of “doing what it takes/day by day” – a simple philosophy with just the right balance of practicality and mysticism.
In concert: April 20 at Vic Theatre
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.
Copyright © 2015, RedEye