My Morning Jacket have great songs. Six albums worth, actually, not to mention lots of gems tucked away on soundtracks and compilations.
Early EP cut "O Is the One That Is Real" is one worth tracking down. That My Morning Jacket have focused as intently on songwriting and evocative lyrics as equally as developing a musical chemistry explains why they're one of the rare units called "a jam band" that makes worthwhile studio albums.
But the Louisville, Ky. gentlemen have great taste in other people's songs as well. They also have a knack for turning out cover versions that retain the core of what makes the song great while twisting it in an unexpected direction.
In anticipation of their stop at Madison Square Garden tonight, we've picked out the five best cover songs they've ever done, and could conceivably do tonight. The choices range from classic rock to metal to avant-soul, and help illustrate the restless curiosity that makes My Morning Jacket one of the most hard-to-pin-down bands around.
They strip away a lot from the Elton John classic here, leaving only the naked loneliness at the core, which they then cover in loads of intergalactic guitar warble.
"I can't believe they're doing Danzig, man." It's true, man. Jim James' falsetto isn't as much of instant evil signifier as Danzig's sinister baritone, but he can wail when he needs to, and James and guitarist Carl Broemel give the churning riffage a bit more of a strut.
This Erykah Badu hit has long been in rotation in their set list, and was one of the earliest indications that they had interests beyond the hazy-folk of their earliest work. James has the expertly paced frustration of the original down so well that he's earned the Badu seal of approval. The pair have dueted on it a few times live.
They slow down the tempo and scrape away the bravado from Elvis Presley's rendition without damaging the essential beauty of the melody. When James sings "let's not let a good thing die," he sounds desperate to believe that it's not too late.
They've done this Curtis Mayfield anthem at Lollapalooza and a few other special occasions, often backed with a horn section provided by local youth orchestras. The nice thing is that they don't have too strain to hard here to prove their funk bonafides. James was born with a natural blue-eyed soul voice, and stickman Patrick Hallahan can swing as easily as he can stomp.