Jim James is equal parts funky and woke on Eternally Even

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Jim James | photo by Neil Krug | courtesy of the artist
Jim James | photo by Neil Krug | courtesy of the artist

Next Friday, Jim James releases his new LP, Eternally Even. Two Fridays later, he’ll play those songs at The Fillmore. If you can’t wait for either of those things to happen, you’re in luck, because the album’s streaming now over at NPR.

When we last heard from My Morning Jacket in 2015’s The Waterfall, James’ tunes were marked by acoustic guitar and delicate falsetto, but on Eternally Even, the focus has shifted to the low end. With funky drum & bass lines and vocals sung primarily in a smooth baritone, the prolific songwriter demonstrates a newfound fixation with rhythm & blues. Tracks like “True Nature” and the two part “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger” suite are as dark as they are sensual — perfect for slow dancing through the apocalypse, but these songs are more than simple exercises in mood.

Like Marvin Gaye did years ago and D’Angelo is doing now, James ornaments deep grooves with socially conscious and at times blatantly political lyrics. On opening track “Hide In Plain Sight”, he urges listeners to take responsibility for their role in society, asking “Did you think you could hide in plain sight?” This sentiment continues on the  more direct “Same Old Lies”, where amidst references to “hate crimes” and “shelter lines”, he utters “If you don’t vote, it’s on you, not me.” Of course, you can ignore all that and just enjoy the beautiful music, but do you really want to let Jim James down like that?

Listen to Eternally Even below, and watch the video for “Same Old Lie.”

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