Southern rock returns

Joe Bugbee and Joe Bugbee

If 2003 is the year of the rebirth of southern rock, My Morning Jacket will lead the way.

The quintet’s third album, It Still Moves is an experimental odyssey, containing over 71 minutes of complex anthem rock which sometimes sounds more like Neil Young than Neil Young.

The guys from Louisville, Kentucky have put together a pull at your heartstrings and sometimes a little too fuzzy-warm album that might just stick around for awhile.

The opener “Mahgeetah,” brings to life a classic sprawling guitar solo straight from 1976–is that Skynard dripping out of my headphones? With a bar band feel, MMJ not only sings about drinking and drinking a lot, they also play like a band transfixed by the bottle.

The bottle leads to some jarring and inspirational songs, like “Golden,” a lone yet folky track that picks up where CSN’Y left off and “Master Plan” where Neil Young’s Harvest left off. The massive “I will sing you songs,” which clocks in just over nine minutes, has vocalist/guitarist Jim James declaring that he will “sing to you of greater things/money, gold and diamond rings.”

The one constant on It Still Moves, is the length of each song.

Most eclipsing the five-minute mark, with the exception of the three minute “Just One Thing,” a song that may be short on time, but long on memory. “Steam Engine,” is the second nine-minute plus track, with James confidently shouting that “I do believe none of this is physical, at least not to me…it’s not the dream that makes you weak.”

The words may be harsh, but there can be no question the amount of fun these guys are having on this album: They are jamming, crooning and drinking, all essential to having a good ol’ time, southern rock style.

It isn’t until midway through the album, that the idea of this nouveau southern rock starts to wear a little thin.

Although there is no doubt of the musicianship in MMJ or the quality of sound on It Still Moves, the listener might be asking themselves, “Hasn’t this already been done before?”

The Allman Brothers invented it, Lynard Skynard perfected it (to a point) and bands like Molly Hatchet and .38 Special ruined it, because well, the music public got sick of hearing about bar room brawls, driving fast, and southern heartbreak.

MMJ has found a niche, a comfortable and warm one at that, but they need to be careful before the only gigs they play are county fairs.

Grade: B