Over his eighteen years as the frontman of My Morning Jacket, Jim James has seen the group transform and grow over time from the weirdo folk music of The Tennessee Fire to become one of the biggest bands in indie rock today. While it may have taken the group a few albums to fully get there, their success isn’t surprising, as the band’s mix of Americana, psychedelia, and jam rock give them a unique sound that makes them stand out amongst the crowded field of their peers. But rather than simply resting on the success of his band, James has chosen to branch out with a solo career as well. He released his first solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, in 2013, and though an excellent album in its own right it could easily have been simply an aside in his career, getting something out of his system. Yet after the band’s massive success last year with The Waterfall, James followed up with a second solo effort, Eternally Even, this year.
It’s no secret that James has one of the best voices in indie rock today. But one thing that his solo releases have allowed him to do is to feature that voice a bit more front and center. While much of his work with the band tends toward a more straightforward indie sound, when solo James frequently channels 70s soul artists such as Bill Withers, adding a new dimension to his work. This is even more apparent in his live show, where the more direct, less effects-laden sound allows his voice to come closer to front and center.
Much like he did with his tour for the first album, James performed the entirety of Eternally Even in his show. Unlike that previous tour, however, he didn’t play the album straight through from start to finish. Instead he mixed the songs up, and mixed in tracks from that first record, playing about half of it as well. Opening the show with “The World’s Smiling Now” (one of the most directly 70s-sounding soul songs on the album) set the tone for the night, and the music didn’t let up for the whole set. James paused to speak after “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger,” and again at the beginning of the encore, to make a plea for people to talk to each other and work out their differences in these troubled political times.
James’ backing band for the night was made up largely of members of accordion-centered dream pop trio Twin Limb, who also opened the show playing songs from their recent release, Haplo.