Louisville may be widely known as the location of the Kentucky Derby but for the past seventeen years alt-rockers My Morning Jacket have been sneaking up on the blind side and putting the town on the map for other reasons. Their last album ‘Circuital’ finally cracked the top 5 across the pond, garnering a boatload of acclaim from the music press, helped in no small way by the barnstorming title track. Despite the Stateside success, home grown audiences have been slower to take the band to their heart, but is that about to change with album number seven, ‘The Waterfall’? There is every chance.
Released once more on ATO records and largely put together in a studio nestled in the Northern Californian hills overlooking the Pacific, how could Jim James, Tom Blankenship, Patrick Hallahan, Carl Broemel and Bo Koster not be inspired by such a setting? They’ve also benefited from the return of Tucker Martine at the controls, keen to build on the success of ‘Circuital’. Not surprisingly the sound on ‘Waterfall’ feeds off their surroundings, taking on a laid-back West Coast feel with not inconsiderable sprinklings of new-age spirituality. This is most notable on the sombre yet uplifting ‘Like a River’, a song whose rootsy beginnings slowly build to give the listener something truly mystical and super expansive.
The remaining nine tracks provide plenty of further highlights. The quintet are not afraid to show their poppy side too, ‘Compound Fracture’ oozes catchiness and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Gerry Rafferty album whereas ‘Get the Point’ is a poignant country-tinged lament to loss as pedal guitar gently soothes the pain.‘Spring (Among the Living)’ is a skittish celebration of the passing of the cold season, complete with funky overtones, leading into ‘Thin Line’, a super languid slow groover that should have you reaching for your pipe and slippers in the first half, goes all proggy in the middle-eight before slowly returning to earth.
It’s on the final brace of tracks on ‘Waterfall’ where the guys really start to stretch themselves. ‘Tropics (Erase Trace)’ is an understated mini rock epic before the album comes to a close with the 7-minute blue-eyed soul of ‘Only Memories Remain’.
Words - Mike Price
The Waterfall is out now
My Morning Jacket Official