Last week it was Neil Young. This week it’s the progenitor of the highly acclaimed My Morning Jacket, Monsters of Folk, and my current 2013 obsession album, New Multitudes, a soulful tribute to Woody Guthrie. On Tuesday he’ll release his first album under the moniker Jim James, while the Guthrie tribute is categorized under “Yim Yames,” a most clever hiding-in-plain-sight pseudonym. Oh, the hipster irony.
But this music is anything but superficial or self-absorbed. While I respect MMJ a good deal, I’ve never really seen what their loyal fans see. They are a critical and commercial success; good for them. But now, with the richness of last winter’s New Multitudes , his downright reverent EP of George Harrison covers, and the exciting promise of Regions of Light and Sounds of God, I am starting to see the genius behind MMJ’s success. James is a troubadour, a pioneer, and will never do the same thing twice. He will sacrifice himself for his art (the unfortunate unplanned stage dive of 2008 that left him laid up and gave him space to write this new album) but has never allowed himself to be pigeon-holed. MMJ stands independently from Monsters of Folk, stands independently from New Multitudes, stands independently from Jim James solo, which I assume will stand apart from his inevitable subsequent side project. He is that rare specimen that simply *must* create.
A recent Rolling Stone Q&A (link below) really unveils what’s going on the mind of this master, and completely hits on all the wider themes that I feel best typify my generation right now: he seeks spiritual connection while living hard. He manifests a creative life full of personal meaning. He questions the establishment while leaving room for redemption. I think ours is the generation of hope after yuppie selfishness, and the new wave (pardon the pun) of Summer-of-Love self-expression, while for the most part avoiding rampant self-indulgence. We will be wiser, more honorable, more creative than our parents. Let Jim James show us the way.