The smoky, alcohol lacquered “It Still Moves” has been with me throughout the best and worst times of my life. I’ve listened to it in many forms over the past ten years. First, on a herculean 2006 desktop PC the size of WWII navel mine. Then on a fingerprinted CD-R. Finally, on vinyl, where it spun in three, substantially different, households. I’ve played it on rollicking, mushroom fueled road trips up the California coastline. At hotel parties with strangers who drank beer and scribbled “the year of sex + vengeance” on travel brochures before venturing off into the shoreline of some phantom evening. Almost nightly, when I was in my early twenties, I would blast “Dancefloors” on my way home from work at 1am. My Morning Jacket represented a salt of the earth, Kentucky distilled migration of unpretentious 1970s southern rock through a contemporary aughts filter. I felt it bubble in my veins. The instrumentation was raw but coordinated. The emotions changed gears between unbridled elation and joyless resignation. All the while, Jim James growled, purred, crooned and belted in a vulnerable but powerful sandstone lilt.
Though subsequent albums would provide fun house bravado, indie-darling aesthetic, and unhinged guitars, the band, at least at the time of writing, would never again absorb the early morning warmth and foot-tapping sensibilities of alt-country. The cathartic twang, seen here on the song “Golden”, would eventually fall entirely on the band’s next album, “Z”.
There is a sublime continuity on “It Still Moves” that bores not only into your bones but your subconscious fears and pleasures. There’s danger in the webbed mysteries of “Masterplan”. Jubilation and terror in the striking crescendos of “One Big Holiday”. Whiskey and revelry in “Easy Morning Rebel”. The tempo changes, throughout the album, never remove themselves from the abandoned theater reverb of Jim James’ invested, and astral, delivery.
Even today, listening to that decade old CD-R that my then-girlfriend burned for us, I feel curiosity in the closing notes of “I Will Sing You Songs” and heartache in “Steam Engine”. It skips now (“Mahgeeta” sputters and pops in my car) but I’ll never toss the flimsy, lovingly made disc out. And, really, it’s nice to know if I need to self-medicate, “One In the Same” will be there for me on a tattered, pen-stung TDK.