MUSIC REVIEW- Cool Jacket: <I>Moves</I> will move you

My Morning Jacket
It Still Moves , ATO Records

The title of My Morning Jacket's latest LP is certainly apropos. Upon first listen, even an ardent music fan could find the seemingly listless, reverb-drenched (and I mean drenched), mournful sounds on this record to be boring, shoe-gazer rock made for the alt-country audience.

However, as with all My Morning Jacket releases, this one grows on you with each spin, and in fact has the catchiest hooks the band has ever put to tape. So if you buy the record, stick with it. It's well worth the spins. In fact, it'll move you.

Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, MMJ is a five-piece band homegrown around the vocal and songwriting talents of heavily bearded bandleader Jim James. In promotional materials, they bear more than a passing resemblance to The Band in its heyday. And like The Band's, the sound is lonesome, yet driving, with an almost classic country feel.

Also familiar to new audiences will be a singing voice that at times is eerily reminiscent of Neil Young's craggy, high-pitched wail. However classic rock-inspired, the music of MMJ is truly indie rock at its best, with stunning, beautifully crafted melodies to match the extraordinary lyrics, where songs seem to appear from a surly haze of smoke and backwater.

This isn't your brother's Neil Young record. It reaches beyond– by taking notes from the past and present to arrive at some empty, shelled-out roadside barroom where five stools are waiting to be sat upon. This is powerful stuff, to say the least.

The group was formed in the late '90s by James and his country cousin, Johnny Quaid. In 1999, they released their debut LP, The Tennessee Fire, on a small label, and the record garnered almost universally positive critical review, which led the band to quick underground popularity both in the States and in Europe.

I found the band around the time of their second LP, At Dawn, where the signature sound remained basically unchanged, but the crew included two new members: KC Guetig on drums, and a new keyboardist, Danny Cash.

That record was a high water mark for me, and It Still Moves is a very close second (with a bullet). Before recording It Still Moves, the group was signed by the Dave Matthews-funded ATO records, which gave them the time and budget to craft over an hour's worth of velvety smooth, high lonesome rock music. If you're a fan of quality singer-songwriters, and have even a passing interest in alternative or classic country music, MMJ should appeal to you in a big way.

My Morning Jacket