My Morning Jacket At Dawn

Singer-songwriter Jim James is proudly carrying forward the traditions of American rock'n'roll with his band My Morning Jacket. While some bands might stumble after the critical acclaim of a promising debut, My Morning Jacket have followed up their impressive album The Tennessee Fire, with At Dawn, an album that reaches beyond any high expectations, except, perhaps, for James's own. At Dawn takes twang-rock into sweet pop territory as if Neil Young decided to interpret the last couple of Wilco albums. The Neil Young connection is most striking on ballads like "Hopefully," "Bermuda Highway" and "If It Smashes Down" where James's crackling fragile vocals can be as endearing as annoying when that heartfelt yearning gets too much. When his band kicks in the sounds are big and bursting with joyous raw energy on blow-up rockers like "Lowdown," "Just Because I Do" and "The Way That He Sings." Even standard blues-rock tracks like "Honest Man" take common fare into something exceptional through sheer exuberance. The melodic quality of these emotionally packed songs connect at every turn with their soul-tugging hooks. Perhaps the highest compliment to James's timeless songwriting is that after a few listens you'll swear that these were songs you grew up with. Early copies of the album come with an additional collection of James's stripped-down solo demos for the album, which includes tracks that didn't make the final version. It's easily worth the early trip to your general store. (Darla)