Anyone who thinks Kentucky isn’t making itself heard in the modern music universe needs to check two new (well, sorta new) native son statements cut in the Commonwealth.
Jim James’ power trio manifest “Uniform Distortion” is his third solo record since the release of his last album with My Morning Jacket. Whether that’s a signal of what’s to come career-wise is hard to forecast. What is evident, though, is that James is more than a little restless on “Uniform Distortion.”
Cut in Louisville with veteran producer and Twin Limb guitarist Kevin Ratterman, the record retreats from the psychedelia of 2016’s “Eternally Even” for a stripped down, garage rock summit.
As with most of James’ non-MMJ projects, playing Spot the Influence is half the fun.
Here, the results range from the Neil Young/Crazy Horse references within “No Secrets” (right down to the collar-grabbing, skeletal guitar solo) to “Over and Over,” which sounds like Buddy Holly with a Sonic Youth makeover.
Echoes of topical turbulence resound, though. Having turned 40 in April, James is getting a jump start on musing about mortality on “Throwback” and assumes a Brian Wilson-like sense of displacement for “Out of Time” (“I’m either behind the times or ahead of the times”). The music on the latter also takes the tune’s title to task by letting a Foo Fighters-like blast of guitar jubilation derail into a jagged, off ramp jam that sounds like a DJ nodded off while flipping records.
There is solace, however, as the initial warmth of “No Secrets” professes faith. “Don’t hide your dancin’ in the moonlight,” he sings. “Light it up.” With a crunchy immediacy augmented by another trio of female vocalists that broadens the pop palette, James doesn’t just light up “Universal Distortion.” He sets it ablaze.
Lawrence County native Tyler Childers, still riding a hearty wave of recognition for his splendid 2017 breakthrough album “Purgatory,” has just tossed his fans a treat from the recent past that ought to satisfy until a follow-up studio record surfaces.
“Live at Red Barn Radio I & II” is exactly that — a half-hour single disc reissue of two EPs pulled from separate 2013 performances given eight months apart for the Lexington-based "Red Barn Radio" program.
The most immediate difference between these songs and“Purgatory” is the largely relaxed acoustic framework of the music provided by a drummer-less quintet (featuring Childers’ current fiddler Jesse Wells and Wook chieftain Arthur Hancock) on tunes that constitute what was the original “Red Barn I” – namely, the exquisite “Shake the Frost.”
The real treats are the “Red Barn II” songs that present Childers unaccompanied. From the longing and darkness that creeps into a harrowing cover of “Rock Salt and Nails” to a desolate reading of the title tune to his 2011 debut album “Bottles and Bibles,” these reflections provide an intimate and revealing glimpse of life before “Purgatory.”