Ten Things We Hope To See During My Morning Jacket's Three Day Port Chester Run
Five Covers We Hope They Play
"How the Gods Kill"
I once saw MMJ open an encore with this cover, and all the remnants of my teenage self pretty much went nuts over Jim James & co. covering, of all things, something by the epic blues-metal outfit of former Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig. While we all knew MMJ could match the heaviness of Danzig's chorus whenever they felt like it, this cover showed off a slightly different side of James' voice, something darker and more seductive that he'd do well to explore more often. As far as MMJ covers go, this one's a bit of a rarity, and a three night run with no repeats seems a good time to bring it back.
The Velvet Underground
"Oh! Sweet Nuthin'"
"Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" is the immaculate last song from the Velvet Underground's swan song, Loaded. MMJ have played it quite a bit over the years, particularly when they were touring for Z and Evil Urges. They bring a bit of weathered Southern grandeur to it, punctuating the song with climactic solo sections that make it sound like it originally came after "Steam Engine" on MMJ's own It Still Moves rather than after "Train Round the Bend" on Loaded. It's one of the more gorgeous covers MMJ do.
"Fleeing Is Believing"
OK, this one is somewhat random, and there's no real justification for assuming that there's any chance in hell MMJ would cover it. It's a lesser known song from an EP from a semi-known band that released their first album, a scuzzy garage rock thing called The Feeling, in November. It's not like Jim James has been doing interviews talking about how much he loves Naomi Punk (to my knowledge, at least). But the first time I heard this song it reminded me of a noisier, dirtier version of the earlier MMJ material. Take away the reverb blankets of The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn, and they'd probably sound comparably ragged to "Fleeing is Believing." In fact, when the more muscular current version of MMJ play old tracks like "It's About Twilight Now" or "Honest Man" they get grungy like Naomi Punk here. Just imagine James wailing away at those last few choruses.
"Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)"
Back in '01, right when George Harrison died, Jim James recorded this set of solo demos of six covers both from Harrison's solo career and Beatles years. It wasn't released until much later, in '09, under James' solo moniker Yim Yames. As a weird solo one-off, these covers haven't really made their way into MMJ's sets, aside from an occasional performance of "Isn't It a Pity." What is actually a pity is that they've never taken on the "Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)." While most of the Yim Yames EP is interesting in a kind of novelty way, this is one moment where a young James possibly tops Harrison. The sparse instrumentation coupled with James' perennially reverb-drenched vocals give the cover this devastating, haunting quality, and it'd sound incredible in the Capitol Theatre.
For all of My Morning Jacket's schizophrenia when it comes to covers, there have been a handful that have become the band's own standards, eliciting fervor akin to some of the band's own most beloved songs. Sometimes these more common covers make more sense within the sonic framework of MMJ's sounds, like when they do the Band's "It Makes No Difference"; sometimes it's Erykah Badu's "Tyrone," a cover which, dating back to their early alt-country days, was way out of left field, even if it seems less so now after some of the psychedelic soul stylings of Evil Urges and Circuital. But reigning supreme over all of the "classic" MMJ covers is, inarguably, "Rocket Man," the Elton John tune which is normally kind of fodder for things like American Idol and bar bands. MMJ's version is a beautifully elegiac country-tinged version, with Carl Broemel's lap steel guitar weaving in and out like tragic whale songs until James belts out the chorus with everyone--because of course it's everyone--pouring it out with him. This is one of those instances where the fanbase has long since forgotten the song's by someone else.