Jim James has to be naturally gifted when it comes to music. Whether you’re talking about his guitar abilities, powerful voice, or knack for writing complex melodies; there’s clearly something there that just can’t be taught.
What’s even more impressive is the way his creative well never seems to run dry. Between albums and nonstop touring with My Morning Jacket, he somehow found time to record an EP of George Harrison songs, collaborate with Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) on a Woody Guthrie Tribute album, record and tour as part of The Monsters of Folk, and contribute to albums by Camera Obscura, Neko Case, and The Decemberists. Jim James isn’t just a musician. He’s a madman.
The most recent project he’s devoted himself to is Regions of Light and Sound of God, his first proper solo LP. The album is loosely based on “God’s Man,” a wordless novel published in 1929 by American artist Lynd Ward. The novel follows an artist who is given fortune, fame, and success, only to discover that it isn’t nearly as easy or enjoyable as he had thought, a story that managed to inspire Jim James almost 85 years later. This batch of songs finds James, already a bold lyricist, addressing deeply personal and spiritual questions about the unintended consequences of technology and “trying to make Earth feel like home.”
did you know that in 1982 michael jackson invented a beef-macaroni product called "tender-roni" that he references in the song "P.Y.T."???— jim james (@jimjames) April 26, 2013
Regions of Light and Sound of God also manages to leave behind the epic guitar solos and roots rock of his other projects, gravitating towards a futuristic soul sound. It’s lush and atmospheric, with dramatic strings and heavy reverb on nearly every track. Still, when you take away the layers of synths and strings, there’s nothing but raw talent. He even manages to deliver one of his best vocal performances during the climax of “A New Life.”
Whether you’re a fan of My Morning Jacket or just curious to hear what space-age soul sounds like, a rare Jim James solo set is definitely worth your time. Enjoy Regions of Light and Sound of God on Spotify for now, then be sure to experience the real thing at LouFest.