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Jim James’ ‘Eternally Even’ is more than just a political statement

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My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James decided to release his new solo record, “Eternally Even,” right before all the chaos began.

It was put out on Nov. 4, only four days before a now infamous 2016 Election Day. James’s original intention behind releasing “Eternally Even” during this time period was explicit. Hopefully, a piece of powerful and conscientious art could sway the minds of people who were not planning to make what he felt was the right decision, or make any decision at all.

Had things in the election panned out the way many had expected them too, “Eternally Even” could have then been concretized as a small but vital piece in the big puzzle of America’s continued ideological progression forward. However, these unmet expectations should not give us the inclination that works of art such as “Eternally Even” should have any diminished cultural significance.

Let us therefore not assume that the unfulfilled political nuances and dreams within “Eternally Even” make it any less powerful of a record. James is at the top of his musical prowess and it is with this music that he makes his largest impact.

When asked by David Dye of NPR Music whether he had considered the album’s fleeting artistic relevance in accordance to its timely release before the election, James provided the perfect response.

“It isn’t strictly limited to now…There’s a lot of us out here that stand for love, that stand for equality, that stand for peace. We want the world to be a better place for us and our children.”

Love is therefore what charges the sonic ruminations of Jim James. With great love comes great responsibility, and he takes on that responsibility by preaching a positive message to a country in desperate need of one. This message he appropriately describes through the language of music.

There are moments during each music listener’s life, after hearing a certain song or voice, in which an overwhelming sense of spiritual fulfillment or a great ethereal-like euphoria envelops the mind and body, creating a peaceful inner tranquility. As Bob Marley famously put it, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

“Eternally Even” will hit you, song after song. Yet it isn’t throwing jabs of hate, rage, anger or violence. These punches come in the form of James’ blissful voice. James astonishes the listener with an array of crosses and uppercuts that are distributed not with fists with but earth-shattering electric guitar jams.

He knows exactly when to fluctuate between an array of widespread musical influences such as psychedelia, jazz, soul and rock ’n’ roll, allowing “Eternally Even” to dabble in different cultures and claim no definitive influences.

James has captured something quite unique sonically with “Eternally Even” and it is best described in his words. “I wanted it to sound like s*** but in a really beautiful way,” he told “Salon Magazine.” This paradox is the perfect summary for the style of “Eternally Even,” as the album provides James with a creative freedom that is more prominent here than it has been in his past solo work.

At this point in his career, no matter what sound James is going for, they always prove to be a further step in his evolution as one of the strongest singer/songwriters in music today.

This coming Sunday, I’ll have a chance to see him play a solo set out near my home in New York City. No doubt, he will come with his long beard, while donning his majestic blue cape.

His meditative stage presence will spread like a wave over the audience listening with glee to his divine voice. As he begins shredding on stage, I feel most assured that the last thing that will be on my mind is the election or Donald Trump.

William Plotnick can be reached at [email protected]

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