At the time of its original release of “It Still Moves” in 2003, My Morning Jacket was still just another band from Louisville, Kentucky, looking to break from the Bluegrass State.
Its previous two efforts, “Tennessee Fire” and “At Dawn” had received positive reviews and were steeped in a cosmic concoction of country and rock music that was held down by frontman Jim James’ celestial voice, but the band was still almost on a don’t-really-need-to-know-basis by the greater public. With “It Still Moves,” the riffs became a little heavier and the arrangements a little bigger, leading people to take notice of this little gem. It was the first album to feature drummer Patrick Hallahan and it solidified the lineup of My Morning Jacket that we know today.
Jim James has said that if there was an album he felt rushed through it was this one, which prompted the reissue with a complete remastering of the recordings. The songs surely sound nicely buffed and waxed with a golden sheen, keeping them warm and engaging, though the audiophiles will be the ones who really notice a big difference. A lot of fans have definitely worn out several copies of the album back when CDs mattered and you lived and died by your CD case and a Walkman. To have a brand new edition will be nice.
I was 13 when this album came out and I didn’t even know who My Morning Jacket was until someone gave me the live album Okonokos to check out before we went and saw them six years later at Bonnaroo. They’ve always been a band that really makes its mark live and its powerhouse performances are almost an electrical storm of rock and roll. Some of its biggest live staples, such as “Run Thru,” “Mahgeetah,” and the essential “One Big Holiday” come from “It Still Moves.” The energy is there, the soul is there, but the way the band recorded the album, the songs have a twangy undertone to them, the countryside brethren of the big rock stars.
Furthermore, I’d never listened to the album as a whole until now, my understanding of the music coming from what the musicians had played on stage. Listening to these tunes in the flow they were originally intended, you get swept away by not only how thoughtful the placement of a song like “Rollin Back” eases the comedown after the charging “Run Thru,” but also just how many defining My Morning Jacket songs come from this time period. It’s not hard to see why so many fans consider this album the band’s best.
But where this reissue is valuable is not in the formal album itself but rather in the behind-the-scenes release of new, old songs and acoustic demos. They reveal the spark of imagination and creativity that spurred “It Still Moves” and it’s quite entrancing to hear “Mahgeetah” in its acoustic form, the high lead playing from guitarist Carl Broemel having a lush, Mediterranean feel to it. Depending on your mood, it could very well be the preferred choice to the electric version. “Run Thru” has the rushing wind feel of an Eagles track and “Easy Morning Rebel” is country blues without the honky-tonk bombast of horns.
The reissue includes three unreleased tracks from the sessions, the most fascinating being “En La Ceremony.” It is brooding and cool in its flamenco-style acoustic beginning that opens up like clouds in the night sky to reveal a full moon and stars commanding the universe. Hopefully, it might make an appearance or two in the band’s show in its next tour because it will transport fans to a place of musical wonderment like the best of My Morning Jacket songs.
Going through the looking glass back to “It Still Moves” will be a rewarding experience, both to remember how this band took it to new, defining levels and to see how it got there. I wonder what the musicians felt when they went back through the looking glass.
- My Morning Jacket
“It Still Moves” (reissue)
Note: The 2003 album was remixed by frontman Jim James and remastered by Bob Ludwig. The reissue includes 10 original demos by James and three previously unreleased songs.
Release: May 27, 2016
Label: ATO Records