Album Review: Jim James – Tribute To 2

Only Jim James can make a covers album seem so brand new and fresh that his reimagined versions of classic songs will sound like brand new works of music to listeners, regardless if they are familiar with the original versions. Earlier this month, the My Morning Jacket frontman released the second installment of his solo project Tribute To, recreating oldies jams and injecting them with his own eclectic indie soul rock style.

Track one I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, serves as a tribute to The Beach Boys. The song begins with a spacey vibe and slow drumbeat to warm the listeners ears. Jim’s John Lennon-esque vocals are a perfect match for this classic rock song, as more instruments enter and the song comes alive with bright beachy colors.

A beautiful piano melody is featured on the next song Baby Don’t Go written by Sonny & Cher. A majority of the song is only vocals and piano, which proves the power of Jim’s entertaining songwriting and song arranging ability. The jumpy chords provide a catchy rhythm, which keeps listeners intrigued throughout the entire song.

The soft rock vibes continue onto Wild Honey by Diane Izzo which contains a folky acoustic fingerpicking pattern. Jim’s singer/songwriter prowess continues to shine on this beautiful, intimate track, and it makes listeners want to hear more of his beautiful soul-spilling out through song.

Midnight, The Stars And You by Ray Noble & Al Bowlly is another piano gem to add to Jim’s repertoire. The song begins with a sensationally jazzy piano chord progression. The classic/oldies vibe is hear right away in the staccato, sprightly and bouncing rhythm, and listeners will find themselves clapping, tapping and dancing along to the beat. The next song, Crying In The Chapel by The Orioles features a slow, acoustic attitude that may almost be categorized as a waltz. This Tribute To Vol. 2 record showcases the variety of genres that James can perform, and this song serves as a perfect example in the middle of the album as a way to mix up the different styles and rhythms in this collection.

Love Is The Sweetest Thing brings to mind a snowy, holiday season which fits the time period of the release of this project. The rocking, catchy piano continues to capture the ears of listeners on this track, and it makes you almost envision Jim’s fingers dancing across the keyboard recording in the studio. The middle of the song features a vocal/piano jam, which proves how James not only can produce a variety of genres, but his musicianship expands beyond songwriting into extended and entertaining jams. At the end of the track we hear a key change, which serves as another interesting, and captivating characteristic to make listeners want to hear the song again right away.

With Tribute To 2, Jim James continues to showcase his musician expertise and ever expanding abilities behind a multitude of instruments.

Scott J. Herman