JIM JAMES @ AMOEBA MUSIC
Photos by Stephanie Port Words by Madison Desler
“I love this store. I feel like I’ve been here one hundred and fifty million times,” Jim James, frontman of My Morning Jacket explained to the crowd of fans gathered for his in-store appearance at the one and only Amoeba Music in Hollywood. James, who boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of music that rivals the store’s inventory went on to pinpoint exactly what’s so special about the place. “I feel like it’s the place at the end of the galaxy, where we all wind up when we die. And we all listen to records together.”
It was this spirit of community and musical discovery that informed the evening, as James played cuts off of his latest LP, Tribute To 2—an album of carefully curated covers, done up in James’ signature reverb and scrupulous attention to sound. With a a slight 10-song setlist, he managed to span decades and genres, connecting disparate artists like Willie Nelson, Abbey Lincoln, and Diane Izzo with his golden thread.
We were transfixed from the very beginning, his completely a cappella version of Ray Noble and Al Bowlly’s “Midnight, The Stars And You” an impressive display of curio crooning—the microphone practically inside of his mouth as he vocalized up into his upper register. He took a sharp left, picking up his acoustic and blessing us with a beautiful rendition of Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” the distance between the two minimized by James’ deft stylization.
With his blue, metallic fingerless gloves, sunglasses, shock of stiff hair, and long coat, he came off as a Dude-like spirit guide—a walking advertisement for the magic of Amoeba’s saturated aisles. His beautiful renditions of “I Remember” by Molly Drake—mother of Nick—and “Wild Honey” by Dianne Izzo were direct results of time spent wandering around Amoeba, the thrill of discovery still present in his voice as he recounted it.
Whether it’s Sonny and Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go,” or Brian Wilson’s “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” James’ retoolings shed new light and breathe fresh perspective into these classics and almost classics, revealing them for what they are—damn good songs. “Same Old Lie,” a bitter cut from James’ solo album Eternally Even, and “I’m Amazed” off of My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges fit into the set seamlessly, a testament to James´ own work—his own place amongst all his heroes on display in the store around him.