Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Album Review: Jim James - Uniform Distortion

Jim James
Uniform Distortion
**** out of *****
The title of Jim James most recent solo album is a good indication of the sound contained within, as Uniform Distortion is filled with guitar/bass feedback on all of the tracks. Perhaps more accurate though is a title of the fourth song on the album, "Throwback". While James solo records of original material have found him playing with digital loops, retro-soul, and futuristic Marvin Gaye topical/political screeds, Uniformed Distortion returns him to his early My Morning Jacket era with screeching solos, rock and roll cliches, soaring songs and heavy drumming.

Recorded at Louisville, KY’s La La Land with production from Kevin Ratterman and James himself, the album vibrates in a retro confident way. Opening with two excellently swaggering fuzzed up rockers with in your face riffs, "Just a Fool" and "You Get To Rome" are the double barrel openers. Instantly engaging with gorgeous backing vocals (Dear Lemon Trees’ Leslie Stevens, Jamie Drake and Kathleen Grace) the ripping guitar runs somehow managing to both be reminiscent of Cheap Trick's best and LA's country rock scene from the 70's.

"Out of Time" appears to be treading that same path but drops into a deep groove around fiery soloing and layers of sound which call to mind "Another Brick in the Wall" Pink Floyd; James gets a ton of mileage out of a song that runs just under three minutes, just one highlight among many on the album.
The two tracks most reminiscent of James early My Morning Jacket period are "Throwback" and "No Secrets" while "All In Your Head" has a modern Phish taste, each will be huge live. Stout drumming (from Dave Givan), clean and distorted guitars, positive sounding arena ready formulas, with seize the moment lyrics, cycle through all of these tunes. His spin on the modern day cultural climate takes a back seat to his fuzz tone and guitar work on this record, but he still manages to proclaim we better get together on "No Use Waiting" and a spin on why can't we simply all be friends for "Over and Over Again".

In fact James talked about the record:
“My head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis, and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. The name of my new record is UNIFORM DISTORTION because I feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our news and important information. More and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth… and finding hope in places like the desert where I write this now... finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love.”
Hearing him discuss this, doesn't sound as good as his six string on the record, but it shines a light on the artist and elevates the cover art, The Illuminated Man from photographer Duane Michaels. While James grapples with too much in his head, he certainly seems happy on Uniform Distortion as he is actually laughing on at least three songs here, some of which may be laughs of exasperation, but the humor and human feeling is palpable.

There is a looseness that hasn't been present in his solo work as well, album closer "Too Good To Be True" sounds like a successful first take from the players. While James is always searching, finding sonic inspiration from his past has served him well in these modern times.
RtBE has reviewed all of Jim James solo albums of original material and while Regions of Light and Sound and God and Eternally Even both were OK-to-Good, Uniform Distortion is our favorite from James.

Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below: