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My Morning Jacket | At Dawn (Darla)
'Would you like a little music with your reverb?' are the words sat between the names Dave and Trumfio, mixer of this gigantic album (double album lest we forget the second disc of demos), and it's more than just a gag, it's a mini review in itself. Under a pair of headphones there's a sense that part of your brain, the part that recognises details, has been removed in the night. But, back where it belongs, loud and direct from a pair of Missions we're getting some of what Jim James set out to do with this epic collection. Soaring vocals and unstoppable melodies battle against a wall-of-sound production (or at least an eager pre-set EQ button-pushing finger) and, for the most part, come out on top. He won't thank me for it but James' voice on ballads like Death Is The Easy Way or Phone Went West sounds like a country David Gates though he does find the Neil Young warmth on the following Hopefully. There's a similarly Seventies sensibility seeping into the Southern boogie of Honest Man, a lengthy guitar jam like momma used ta make, but it's on the stripped-down lament Bermuda Highway that At Dawn reaches its zenith, both vocally and melodically. "Don't let your silly dreams fall inbetween the crack of the bed and the wall," sings James with a longing absent in most of yer 'heartfelt' alt.country. Not that At Dawn should be considered a country album, more an Americana spectacular with a sense of scale that owes more to the breadth of ideas and instrumentation than the concert hall ambience of the mix. If this had been released three decades past the packaging alone would have triple-gatefolded out the size of a room and it's James' ambition that should be embraced here, that and his unwavering knack of nailing every line with melodic aplomb. The demo disc is equally plagued by the persistent reverberation giving little perspective or contrast to the 'main' album...a pity.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001

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