My Morning Jacket front man Jim James is probably the most compelling sad sack I've heard in years: on disc his adenoidal braying (somewhere between Neil Young and Wayne Coyne) makes him sound like he's trapped in a well, and his lyrics are haunting even when you can't make all of them out. James and his band can't match the Drive-By Truckers when it comes to capturing the hard-chugging power of countrified southern rock like the Allmans and Skynyrd, but they've got a golden touch with the sort of melancholy soul those acts sometimes dipped into (think "Midnight Rider" or "Tuesday's Gone"). Last year Dave Matthews released the Louisville quintet's third full-length, It Still Moves, on his ATO label, and I still haven't figured out what brought them together. Mr. So Damn Lucky could hardly have less in common with James, who sounds like he's spent many a long evening listening to depressing records with the lights out: Young's Tonight's the Night, Galaxie 500's On Fire, Dylan's Basement Tapes, Gram Parsons's Grievous Angel. At their best My Morning Jacket can be ecstatic and life affirming, but it's not always easy to wait for the music to push through the darkness. The band's relentless touring schedule recently precipitated the amicable departure (and replacement) of guitarist Johnny Quaid and keyboardist Danny Cash. M. Ward opens. Friday, May 21, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sam Erickson.