Inspired by A God’s Man, a 1920s novel illustrated with woodcuts, the My Morning Jacket frontman whittles intertwining themes of faith, doubt, and a longing for more from an arresting post-soul piece of tripped out art. Performing every instrument to immersive effect, James is master of his one man ship. By inwardly diving to perfect his blissful vision for each song, a long respected musician has perhaps made his most enchanting and fulfilled work to date.
With a piano backing reminiscent of a Spoon tune or at least Beck’s “Where It’s At,” the record’s opening song “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” is a groovy and enigmatic launching point for an album that would make Wayne Coyne envious. Tracks slide seamlessly into one another in a cosmic cornucopia of pop songsmithing, a remix of seventies singer-songwriter styles. Each component feels aware and enlightened. There is a vaguely Hawaiian edge to the truly wonderful acoustic-driven shuffle of “A New Life,” bobbing to a Roy Orbinson croon, even if its linings are more gray than silver (“I think I’m really being sincere…” sings James with tentative optimism). Yet optimism and pessimism are not either/ors on Regions of Light and Sound of God. All is stirred together and interconnected; the half empty/half full glass is shattered, shards floating in space.
James, who once covered George Harrison as Yim Yames, follows his hero’s path of spiritual yearning and divine fascination. Wrestling with angels and devils alone, James is a lonesome folk wanderer, thoughtfully preoccupied with the unbearable lightness of being. Stretching his musical palette across the universe, into some wild, many-hued, psychedelic textures, James has made a record immediately more personal than much of his work with My Morning Jacket yet equally as wide-eyed and unrestrained. Jesus would approve.
(Third A- in a Row? Who knew 2013 would be off to such a solid start?)