My Morning Jacket

It Still Moves (ATO Records)

On its third full-length and first for a major label, Louisville, Kentucky's My Morning Jacket mostly keeps to its formula for country-fried rock, dirty barroom riffs and leisurely paced acoustic folk. Lead singer Jim James's reverb-drenched vocals anchor a sound that is rooted in soil long cultivated by Neil Young, the Allman Brothers Band and, to a lesser extent, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The group's pastoral plucking and wistful croon on "Golden" recall classic folksy Young, while the loud-soft-loud guitar rock of "Masterplan" bears more than a passing resemblance to Young's Crazy Horse circa 1969.

As they recorded the album at lead guitarist Johnny Quaid's grandparents' farm, James went to Memphis to work with Willie Mitchell and his legendary Memphis Horns. The resulting collaboration injects a dose of soul into the upbeat "Dancefloors," a welcome change for a group whose first two indie outings, The Tennessee Fire (1999) and the near-perfect At Dawn (2001), were much bleaker affairs. But It Still Moves still has its share of plaintive ballads, like the acoustic closer "One in the Same" and the sleepy nine-minute "I Will Sing You Songs." Meanwhile, "One Big Holiday" is the best studio representation of the band's fierce and frenetic live show with more than two minutes of dueling-guitar freakouts.

While It Still Moves isn't quite as magical as past efforts -- unfortunately it lacks the psychedelic weirdness of the group's earlier work -- My Morning Jacket effectively braids together pretty melodies, dream pop and bluesy Southern twang into an earnest rock sound not heard elsewhere. Overall, a smooth transition from indieville to the majors.

 
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