I’m embarrassed to admit that I grew up in Kentucky and know very little of My Morning Jacket; a band with Louisville origins. Until 2 years ago, I knew nothing of My Morning Jacket and Jim James. I had no idea what I was missing.
My boyfriend, a longtime fan, introduced me to the band. He was shocked, that I, who proudly educates everyone she meets on Kentucky knowing’s was clueless of the incredible musical talent that came out of my home state.
I slowly started to learn about Jim James. His talent was undeniable. I started with his work on The New Basement Tapes in which he and a handful of other musicians including Marcus Mumford and Elvis Costello, recreate half-finished Bob Dylan songs. If you haven’t heard the album or seen the documentary, it’s worth checking out.
If you don’t know this already, Jim James is an incredible musician, a musical messiah. What I saw of his work left me wanting more. Slowly, I started to learn more about his band, My Morning Jacket. A collaboration between James and a few of his Louisville buddies. These guys are no longer kids from Kentucky, they’ve transformed into Rock gods.
I watched YouTube clips of live performances and I would occasionally add a song or two that struck me to my Spotify playlist. I dug everything I heard. There aren’t many rock bands these days whose sound strikes me as original. With that said, I’ve never heard anything like My Morning Jacket.
Like many, I was under the impression that My Morning Jacket was more of a jam band, which is fine, just not my usual go-to for casual listening. But the more I listened to them, I realized that wasn’t the case. They have too much power behind them to be considered a jam band. Some of Jim James electric guitar solos are among the best I’ve ever heard.
James is one of the most talented musicians around. His melodies, lyrics, voice, and handling of a guitar are incomparable. He can sound like three different people over the course of one verse, shredding the guitar as he does it. His presence is poetic and modest. He doesn’t appear to have the ego of a front man, he simply can’t help who he is. He’s there for the music.
I slowly grew into a My Morning Jacket fan. If you give their music a chance it’s hard not to. It’s impossible to not be impressed by Jim James in some variation. Rumor has it that the most impressive thing about Jim James and My Morning Jacket is their ability to play live. Multiple media outlets have deemed them one of the best live bands of our generation.
Saturday night I got to see that theory in action. My Morning Jacket played at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens; an old tennis arena turned summer music venue. An outdoor venue is perfect for My Morning Jacket. Their sound is freeing and shouldn’t be confined by walls. Although, I’m sure they’d sound just as wicked inside Madison Square Garden.
It was still daylight when the band took the stage, which set the mood with their lighter songs. Then as the sun went down, the stage lights came on, and the music took on a life of its own. My Morning Jacket sounds better live, not all bands do. They excel at it. It’s the effortless energy of their stage presence and their ability to never tire.
The crowd was great. They danced and swayed to the music. They even sang along at the chorus, but never overpowering Jim James. No one wanted to waste a second of his voice. And my god, what a voice it is. Whether he’s hitting a falsetto or simply carrying the average note, his voice is out of this world. James moves around the stage like he was born to do it. Clearly, he was. You can tell by simply observing his connection with the audience. I found it very similar to the way Jim Morrison ruled his stage decades ago. Simply put, it was special.
It was my first time seeing My Morning Jacket, but it certainly won’t be the last. My only regret is not having seen or known about them sooner. Although, when it comes to appreciating the music of My Morning Jacket, you’re better late than never.
Not sold? Check out this performance. Stay tuned for a mind blowing guitar solo.