Music Reviews
Regions of Light and Sound of God

Jim James Regions of Light and Sound of God

(ATO) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

There have been few times, in my 16 years living and moving about overseas, that I have truly wished I could move ‘home’. Those times are fleeting, but usually come in times of family emergency, insane temperatures on either end of zero, or when I happen to look at tour schedules for my favorite bands. These are the times I desperately wish I could live in places like Brooklyn, Portland, Chicago, Seattle – or even Milwaukee – a place I thought for years was just the name of a bad beer. When I first read that Jim James, frontman for My Morning Jacket, was releasing a debut solo album, and planning a tour of North America, I experienced a moment of envy for all those people who live there and have the ability to just ring up one their friends and say, “Hey, Jim James is playing at the Pabst Theatre (or The Orange Peel, or the Crystal Ballroom, or Vinyl, etc) on the 19th  - let’s go see him”. When I phone my friends here in Asia or the Middle East, we end up seeing Beyonce, or Engelbert Humperdink, or Snow Patrol. Not really as intimate, unfortunately.

In the end, though, I decided that Regions of Light and Sound of God, released on February 5 via ATO, is a fantastic album even though I know I’ll never see any of the songs played live. I’m sure folks who get to witness Jim James’ folk/funk/roots/poetry in person will walk away feeling like they gained something from the experience, but listening to the album, with good headphones and good lighting, is an exercise in musical happiness in and of itself. In the past month I’ve listened to different parts of this album in Dubai, in an airport in Qatar and in a hotel in Vienna – in radically different states of mind – and it’s always sounded superb. That should be a litmus test for good music right there. From the beginning of the album, on State of the Art, when he croons, A life worth living, now you can feel it in your chest, the mood - carried along by piano and Jim’s voice - builds emotion and builds expectation. Know Til Now fits in well with the start of the album with a sexy groove and head-swaying cheekiness reminiscent of Leo Sayer or Marvin Gaye, and on it goes – a full 40 minutes of glory - until the buttery finale of God’s Love To Deliver. You just can’t help but be pulled in. Your shoulders will bounce a little and your toes will tap. You will feel transported back in time, and you will probably feel more understood.

James plays almost every instrument and engineered the album himself. And although it seems clear that he is an artist in control, and an artist who pays attention to the process and structure of his music, there is something about these songs that seems distinctly relaxed and … groovy. It’s this comfortable vibe that differentiates Regions from most of My Morning Jacket’s body of work. The similarities are there (some of these songs sound like they came from MMJ’s sixth album Circuital, for example) but the personal element, the DIY vibe, is always there. This can seem a little overdone at times (that awkward moment when you wonder if maybe Jim J has given you too much information about the state of his heart, for example) but this is a minor point: some people will be charmed by his relentless honesty.

Overall, this album was a just-in-time surprise: a musical excursion of folk, soul, rock, and soul-baring honesty – fun to listen to, no matter where or how it is heard.