If 2017 has been a roller-coaster, and even an annus horribilis, for a few of you, here is wishing 2018 would sign a turn-around of destiny and circumstance.
And what’s higher than to begin the yr on a genial be aware with Jim James’ wondrous voice?
His newest is a covers album that comes seemingly from nowhere, like a capturing star in the course of the night time or a quick spell of magic.
Tribute To 2 is not showy, comparatively extra stripped-down than his work as a frontman of the Kentucky cosmic rockers My Morning Jacket.
A palate cleanser, it’s a follow-up to Tribute To, a covers EP of George Harrison songs, which in itself was an completely private quirk, recorded days after The Beatle’s passing in December 2001.
It feels opportune in a present local weather of polarising factions, particularly coming after his earlier solo outing, Eternally Even (2016), his most express response to post-election America.
The newest covers album is a trans-Atlantic sojourn by means of style and time, lobbying for hope and empathy when the tendency is to divide.
TRIBUTE TO 2
James addresses this in The World Is Falling Down, initially sung in 1991 by African-American jazz singer and civil rights advocate Abbey Lincoln.
“There are some folks I used to know/Who used to smile and say hello/And spin the world and turn the page,” he sings with a tinge of wistfulness, voice reverberating by means of house because the guitar strums.
This is echoed by a telling opener, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, the Beach Boys basic from 1966’s Pet Sounds, which James turns right into a psychedelic soul ballad, an inter-generation dialogue between misfits.
“I keep looking for a place to fit/Where I can speak my mind/I’ve been trying hard to find the people/That I won’t leave behind,” he sings, because the strings swell over a pattern of Isaac Hayes’ 166 model of Jimmy Webb’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix.
He achieves one other delicate subversion in his model of Sonny & Cher’s Baby Don’t Go, taking over each female and male elements, a transfer resonant in these post-Harvey Weinstein instances when gender expectations are being probed and redefined.
Even when instances are dangerous, he seeks communion in a honky-tonk model of Bob Dylan’s I will Be Your Baby Tonight, a stripped-down revision of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s prog-rock doozie Lucky Man, and a bewitching, gypsy-jazz tackle the Irvin Berlin’s commonplace Blue Skies.
As typical, it is his gravity-defying tenor that lends the proceedings an air of alien surprise.
Crying In The Chapel, a doo-wop 1950s basic variously coated by Elvis Presley and the Orioles, is reworked into a non-public confession in a cavern.
It’s poignant exactly as a result of it sounds hopeful. Such is the attractive, bountiful coronary heart of Jim James.