My Morning Jacket have an extraordinary way of making time pass.
Their airy, slow-burn, country jams stretch out like miles of
lonely telephone wire. Bandleader Jim James’ voice, caked in a
country mile of reverb, flows elegantly over the psychedelic twang.
All of this has a warping effect, making their lengthy strolls seem
much shorter.

Mira Levitan

This is hardly anything new for the band, however. Their debut
album, 1999’s The Tennessee Fire, was a lo-fi acoustic
smash, and 2001’s At Dawn was notable for its epic
interpretation of the band’s unique vibe. Despite all the success,
their recent signing to Dave Matthews’ ATO Records – a label known
mostly for jam bands and David Gray – raised some righteous
underground eyebrows.

It’s unlikely, however, that the purists will argue much with
It Still Moves, as the album covers much of the same
territory. Never does the band fall into jam territory, and the
songs, despite their increased length, are notably more consistent.
“Dancefloors,” for instance, is the band’s most accomplished
composition to date. Juxtaposing a driving percussion section with
tight piano fills, singing lead guitar and a rousing horn-section,
the song is both melodic and soulful. James still sounds like a
superhero Neil Young, his cavernous voice and inspiring lyrics
filling the songs with a beautiful, molasses presence.

The rest of the disc is remarkable for both its consistency and
range. “Mahgeetah” is notable for its reggae guitar sound, and “One
Big Holiday” is an excitable guitar rave-up. “I Will Sing You
Songs,” the only track that finds the band extending their
formidable guitar interplay, builds on a remarkably simple lyrical
turn before suspending the listener in a stratosphere of six-string
warmth.

The band’s one fault has always been a tendency to fall too
easily into the trappings of Americana and country. It Still
Moves
, while still occasionally relying on traditionalism,
shows a strong move away from this tendency. Indeed, the band is
most captivating when it challenges standard conventions, pushing
its creative, inspired sound forward while leaving its heart in the
past. It Still Moves is an enthralling listen, the sound of
a band too distinct to remain rooted, and too loyal to stray far
from home.

Rating: 4 stars.

 

 

 

 

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