|March 2007: Once in a rare while, you get turned on to a band that sounds genuinely unique and familiar at the same time — one that has certainly been influenced by the great bands of the past, but has avoided the clichés, transcending their heroes to create something all their own.
My Morning Jacket, lead by signer/songwriter/guitarist Jim James, is a band that has learned the lessons and absorbed the essence of their influences without falling victim to empty simulation. They exhibit an unrestrained musical sense of adventure — a total lack of fear in following the muse wherever it may lead on any given night. With near telepathic interplay, the musicians push and pull, listening with open ears and hearts, bouncing back riffs, determined to alternately lead and follow each other on a musical journey, taking the audience along for the rollercoaster ride. In just under a decade, through the touring and recording over a half dozen releases, the band's personnel has changed several times, settling most recently on the five man line-up of front man James, bassist "Two Tone" Tommy, drummer Patrick Hallahan, keyboardist Bo Koster and guitarist Carl Broemel. The band's history reads like a page out of the Allman Brothers "do it the old fashioned way and earn it" manual for success. Play live, write tunes, hit the road, play live, work out more tunes, record, play live, play live, play live and play live some more and then release a live recording. The stunning Okonokos, a double live set, dropped late last year.
What comes across in the songs of Jim James and in the band's live and studio performances is not only a reverential nod to their inspirations, but an unbridled passion and an unapologetic, unaffected belief in the power of music to create transcendental moments. MMJ's anthemic constructions and signature reverb wash lends a cinematic grandeur to the music that creates an all encompassing, trance-inducing vibe.
||Along with James' immediately recognizable voice, MMJ's sonic signature depends heavily on the twin guitar work of James and recent addition Carl Broemel. Utilizing a wide range of guitar tones to build songs from a whisper to a roar, both players are masters of the six-string. True to their vision of drawing inspiration from an earlier musical era that they obviously respect and love, each guitarist relies on guitars for which they hold deep affection and that have a ton of personal history. So we sat down with them, guitar fan to guitar fan and begged the all time question...
GC: In your guitar collection, which piece is the most special to you?
Carl Brommel: My black 1988 Les Paul Standard is definitely the most special guitar in my collection. I've been playing it for 14 years, and have replaced the tuners, frets, pickups and pots, and eventually added a Bigsby (so I could pretend to be in Crazy Horse). I guess I've just played it so much, and used it to record so often, it's become the main thing that makes me sound like me. I once watched in shock as it flew out of my friend Mike's pickup truck and landed neck first on Indiana Highway 37. Hard. But somehow, Ol' Blacky lives to tell the tale.
Jim James: I would have to say that it is a tie between my Takamine G332 acoustic guitar and my Gibson Flying V. My parents gave me the Takamine for Christmas when I was around 12, and I've written so much stuff on it. It is really magic for me, it is the sound of love and familiarity. The Flying V rocks like no other guitar I've ever held. Sometimes it rocks so hard, I can't even bear to play it and I want to lay down and sleep. Sometimes, if I haven't played loud or live in awhile, and I strap on the V, I feel like I have a machine gun or a sledgehammer in my hand and nothing can stand in my way.
Be sure to check out My Morning Jacket's critically acclaimed live album, "Okonokos" available in-stores and on-line now.