Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You might know Kentucky singer and songwriter Jim James from his band, My Morning Jacket. Well, last year, he took some time off to work on a solo album. It's called "Regions of Light and Sound of God." Our critic, Tom Moon, says it's an interesting chronicle of James' spiritual quest.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Jim James begins by looking somewhat skeptically at the worship of technology.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JIM JAMES: (Singing) I use the state-of-the-art technology. It's supposed to make for better living, are we better human beings? We got our wires all crossed...

MOON: Fronting his band My Morning Jacket, Jim James often comes across as a seeker, someone with a passing curiosity about the metaphysical, if not the unknowable. For this project, his questioning goes a bit deeper. He's the typical lost soul looking for anything genuine in a sea of artifice. His vulnerable melodies give off a sense of profound doubt. In this song, he watches a movie actress on the screen and wonders if personality can be powerful enough to distort reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JAMES: (Singing) You're good at making everyone believe that they love you. A little wink of the eye, a little glimpse of the thigh and we're in heaven. Whether or not it's true, I believe in the concept of you.

MOON: James isn't too sure about organized religion, either. He does believe in the notion of a higher power and his faith in it animates the best of these songs. He works himself into a mood of fervent conviction to put across this one, which explores trust and forgiveness.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JAMES: (Singing) I follow all the wrong dreams, lost in man's schemes, Oh lord. I pray that all is forgiven. All is forgiven, Oh lord.

MOON: People who know My Morning Jacket might hear that and say that Jim James is just re-branding songs his band might have done better. But the rest of the album takes James far from his comfort zone. Playing most of the instruments himself, he journeys into the introspective aura of John Lennon's later solo work and upbeat pop grooves that recall Motown in the early '70s.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: Shifting away from the intensity of his band recordings, James allows his calm, beautifully expressive voice to become the central focus of this set. Bemused, reflective and bewildered all at once, he's a seeker who's in it for the long haul, asking the kinds of questions that don't have answers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Jim James' solo album is called "Regions of Light and Sound of God." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.