Jim James, Teddy Abrams & The Louisville Orchestra: The Order of Nature
Jim James has never been one for subtlety— and that musical theatric flair is a large part of why My Morning Jacket remains one of rock’s most exciting bands two decades on. It’s also why his latest, a fully symphonic song suite created with Teddy Abrams (composer and musical director of James’ hometown Louisville Orchestra) is both thrilling and not so surprising. With The Order of Nature , James and Abrams crafted a set that deftly straddles rockand-roll and classical, drawing from unreleased songs and choice cuts from James’ solo albums. And as anyone familiar with James or MMJ could guess: Adding a full orchestra ups the ante considerably. But this isn’t Metallica S&M, simply adding strings to riffs. Rather, these songs are reimagined, their intensity heightened, painted with different colors entirely. “Here in Spirit” from 2016’s Eternally Even was a slinky, lo-fi funk jam. In Nature , it’s a snowglobe all shook up: swirling strings and cascading harps lighting James’ vocals in a wondrous glow, before the last chorus churns forward as an elegant, half-time march, and liftoff is achieved. Nature was recorded live at the second-ever performance of the suite on April 7, 2018 in Louisville. There’s an element of danger there—a real-time, edge-of-your seat energy that will hook even those skeptical of orchestral upgrades. Take “Same Old Lie,” also from Eternally Even. For the set-closer, Abrams pulls out all the stops: The song climaxes with massive, clanging bells, racing strings, a hurricane of tympani and other percussion and the full strength of his horn section. It’s nothing less than exhilarating.