Louisville's My Morning Jacket has quickly become one of the biggest draws on the festival scene behind a bombastic live show that has included notable appearances at Forecastle and Bonnaroo. A large portion of My Morning Jacket's concerts is attributable to vocalist Jim James, who is a screaming, wailing, moaning ball of energy whose unique voice often completely forgoes words and becomes yet another instrument in the band's massive sound. Now James has ventured out on his own with his first solo album of original material, "Regions of Light and Sound of God."
James took heavy inspiration from a 1929 book of woodcut art by Lynd Ward called "God's Man." That story tells the tale of a man's fall from grace and eventual redemption as well as the lingering demons that continue to reside within him. James so loved the novel that he began to compose an intensely personal loose concept album exploring his own battle with demons and spiritual journey.
Lyrically, James is just as gifted as he has been throughout My Morning Jacket's albums, with album highlights like "A New Life" and "Actress" laying James' soul bare for the world to see. Musically, the album is a bit more spare than most of My Morning Jacket's catalog but will sound immediately familiar to any fan of that group. James continues to pull from a whole range of genres for "Regions of Light and Sound of God," with everything from Southern rock to soul to funk to psychedelic folk being stirred together into one big melting pot.
Of course, Jim James being the musical mad genius he is, he had to take the concept of "solo album" to its extreme. It wasn't enough to write all of the lyrics or music for the album. James also plays every instrument on the album, densely layering instrument over instrument with his own ghostly backing vocals to create a sound that is completely unique.
"Regions of Light and Sound of God" is everything a fan of My Morning Jacket could have hoped for from a Jim James solo album and may even win him some new fans who appreciate the more introspective bent of the album. It's an early album of the year contender and a strong one. Jim James is back to claim his throne as the king of modern rock and right now 2013 belongs to him.
"Regions of Light and Sound of God" releases Feb. 5 on ATO records.