My Morning Jacket formed back in the late ’90s and released their first album in 1999. The band has seen a few line-up changes over the past 16 years, but has stayed intact with the same five guys since 2004. It was this then new current lineup that put out my favorite album from My Morning Jacket, “Z” in 2005. The band has enjoyed greater commercial success over the past few albums, but they’ve really made more of a name for themselves from their live performances. They have been called out as the best live American rock band by more than one publication over the years. I agree that My Morning Jacket is a much, much better band onstage than they are in the studio. In fact, the best album to check out if you’re not familiar with them is probably their live album “Okonokos” which was recorded at the Fillmore in S.F. I was lucky enough to see them play one of their 3 show run at the Fillmore for New Year’s Eve around the same time as Okonokos was recorded (’05-’06), and they were awesome on the stage. Lead singer/guitarist Jim James has a great voice and the entire band was locked in, playing with a lot of heart. For whatever reason, they haven’t been too successful at capturing their live sound in the studio. Every time they release a new album I’m hoping they have finally recorded something up to their potential but it never quite gets there.
Their sound is hard to describe, kind of alternative and rock, with some dashes of country and soul. It really depends on what album you listen to. Some of their early stuff is more mellow, “Z” is the most alternative and the most rock, “Evil Urges” brings a little soul in. Their latest album “Waterfall” was recorded in Stinson Beach bringing in a little Northern CA vibe to their sound (but more ‘70s era). It’s a fairly mellow album, harkening back to some of their earlier days, and has its soulful moments. Some of the album is pretty meandering and probably could have used some tighter editing. It has its moments, and the two songs I’m highlighting are two of their strongest cuts and evidence the most band growth compared to other songs on the album. I’m hoping this album is a transitional one and will help refocus the band’s efforts next time they hit the studio. Anyway, some of my favorite My Morning Jacket albums are bootlegs from Bonnaroo festival shows. You can’t beat the live performances.