- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

Evocative is the best word to describe Louisville, Kentucky's My Morning Jacket, whose second and most recent album, last year's sensational "At Dawn," is imbued with enough soul and feeling to launch the listener off to any of a hundred different places. The band plays the Metro Cafe on Wednesday night.
Surrounded by a cast of talented musicians, lead singer Jim James' gorgeous voice sets the dial for the band's riveting moods and tones. While the epic-length 74-minute album has elements of country, rock, pop, blues and much more, it's the way the band melds all kinds of instrumentation, chord changes and odd sounds with sweeping or movingly slow melodies to create well-crafted music with a pulse all its own that makes My Morning Jacket stand out.
"I know for each song what kind of tone I want if I want the voice to be in a small room or if I want a ton of reverb on it or whatever," Mr. James says of his powerful vocals, the most important instrument on the album. "We'll record in a grain silo or something for huge reverb, or record in a barn for medium reverb. We record out on a farm in Shelbyville, Ky., so we've got access to a lot of different kinds of rooms and stuff."
Asked if such a unique recording location helps the band connect even more with the songs, he says, "Absolutely. We've got our own kind of compound … an amazing place to escape and do our work. It's not like a sterile studio environment where some guy presses a button and tells us we've only got 10 minutes left before our next hour runs out."
Feel is everything with a My Morning Jacket song, which definitely makes the band harder to describe. There's just so much going on in "At Dawn," an album that can go from the sweeping beauty of "The Way That He Sings" to the meandering melancholy of "Death Is the Easy Way" and the aching ballad "Bermuda Highway," and then veer into the harsh bluesy rock of the seven-minutes-plus "Honest Man," all without missing a beat or seeming abrupt in any way. Throughout the album, moods of dark sadness reside comfortably with hints of dreamy possibility to leave a sense of what Mr. James likes to simply call mystery.
"Each song kind of guides its way through my head and kind of hops out," he says. "I definitely feel the mystery in a lot of songs. We like to keep the whole idea of mystery and weird darkness, but always having an upbeat, hopeful tone running through the whole thing.
Some of his favorite songs are from old Disney movies, especially "When You Wish Upon a Star."
"If you can," he says, "get that record and just put it on with a pair of headphones and listen to it. The way they recorded it is just so [messed] up. It's one of the saddest songs I've ever heard in my life, but it's also incredibly happy. It's used all over the world to make children happy, but at the same time it's one of the darkest, most evil songs I've ever heard in my life.
"That's kind of like the goal I like to shoot for. I think some of the most brilliant work ever made, like "The Muppet Show" and old Disney movies and stuff like that, is so creepy and evil but at the same time so wonderfully thrilling to the mind and ear."

WHAT: My Morning Jacket, with Swearing at Motorists
WHERE: Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St., NW
WHEN: 10 p.m. Wednesday
TICKETS: $8
PHONE: 202-588-9118.



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