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
1. Worldless Chorus
2. It Beats For U
4. One Big Holiday
5. I Will Sing You Songs
7. The Way That He Sings
8. What A Wonderful Man
9. Off The Record
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
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