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My Morning Jacket
ATO Records

My Morning Jacket is a Southern rock paradox. The group knows its way around rock jams and pays slight homage to the way Lynyrd Skynyrd (and others) pioneered that Dixie style long before the Jacket was even conceived and tailored. But vocalist Jim James is also an introspective singer/songwriter. So don't expect him to brag about his sexual conquests in a macho, overt, "Freebird" way. Instead, he is a sensitive long-haired hippie boy, if you will.

Although MMJ can stretch out its songs into all-day guitar jams if it chooses, it doesn't. In fact, "One Big Holiday" is about the only track that will immediately appeal to stereotypical redneck rockers. Rather, MMJ is far more creative than that. "Worldless Chorus," with its surprisingly tropical rhythm, appears to be a misprint song title, as it is a song with a wordless chorus. James even yelps a bit at the end of it. "Lowdown" is jangle-y, while "Dondante" features a Neil Young-inspired guitar solo. Speaking of Mr. Young, keep in mind that Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" was an angry, Southern man's response to Young's "Southern Man," itself a criticism of the South's racist legacy. There is just something ironic about a Neil Young guitar lick nestled inside the song from a modern day Southern rock band. I just can't put my finger on it, though.

Okonokos is a live, two-CD set, although you do not hear a lot of cheerleading and crowd response between numbers. Instead, it is MMJ performing band favorites, like "Gideon," in front of a crowd that dearly loves the act. James never gives the audience its "Hello, Cleveland" moment, nor does he speak at all. This is, instead, the intersection of finely honed songs and an appreciative throng of fans.

As a lyricist, James is the simple and straight-to-the-point kind. The words to "The Way That He Sings" could also describe the effect MMJ has on its listeners. "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." Similarly MMJ create a mood beyond verbiage. You feel it and you know it, but you cannot define it. This live set is like one long and beautiful wordless chorus.

- Dan MacIntosh

Tracks Listing
Disc: 1
1. Worldless Chorus
2. It Beats For U
3. Gideon
4. One Big Holiday
5. I Will Sing You Songs
6. Lowdown
7. The Way That He Sings
8. What A Wonderful Man
9. Off The Record
10. Golden

Disc: 2
1. Dondante
2. Run Thru
3. At Dawn
4. Xmas Curtain
5. O Is The One That Is Real
6. I Think I'm Going To Hell
7. Steam Engine
8. Dancefloors
9. Anytime
10. Mahgeetah

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