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My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves
ATO/RCA

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Stunned into not silence, but a corralled cry for help, Jim James comes across partially as preacher, partially as desperate sinner, and mostly like Louisville's own Hamlet -- so overwhelmed by life's infinite ironies and deadly vagaries as to don a dark cloak and fling himself head on into inaction. James' is a castle built of pride and ennui, and when the outside gets a load of it, there'll be misunderstood cries of arena-sized egotism and of self-reference, plus a few lackadaisical Southern smiles and nods of sympathetic understanding.

Maybe that outside will get the picture from It Still Moves, the new major-label debut from guitarist/singer/songwriter James' catharsis-on-wheels My Morning Jacket (the "u" is not only silent, but invisible). Wrapped in swaddling clothes of reverb from vocals-head to kick-drum toe, My Morning Jacket has spent the past few years taking the most over-the-top blatancies of classic rock and perfecting them as its own kind of ethereal Southern-fried rock 'n' roll. With It Still Moves, MMJ seems to have hit on its ultimate objective, a record at once bitterly removed and desolate, and also whee-haa-hittin'-the-back-roads-in-the-General Lee. "Run Thru," for example, has all the disassociation of Roger Waters, and the riffage to boot, and "One Big Holiday" -- a standout from both the disc and the band's recent live set -- could be on WRRK tomorrow. Meanwhile, "Golden" takes its cues from Don Gibson and similar Nashville country, and "Masterplan" deceives with cock-rock lyrics ("it's everything that you want babe / everything that you need ... make you want it over and over") set to a Crazy Horse death march.

My Morning Jacket has already left a trail of Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns, and probably a few Ophelias, strewn across the country in the wake of live shows that feel like rock revivals until the warm sadness and light of that reverb makes your heart stop. With It Still Moves, they've become what they always threatened and promised -- Lynyrd Skynyrd, after the crash.

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