My Morning Jacket "Live From RCA Studio A" (2022 Record Store Day Drop LP)

For the Record Store Day drop date of June 18, 2022, the indie rock band My Morning Jacket issued an EP titled Live From RCA Studio A, which was actually a solo recording of band leader Jim James performing seven live-in-the-studio selections from the band's self-titled 2021 album. The 12-inch, 45 rpm vinyl EP was limited to 5,000 copies.

James performed these tracks alone at the Nashville studio on August 31, 2021, using only an acoustic guitar. This was not an off-the-wall concept, considering that the My Morning Jacket album often took on a more down-to-earth alt-country sound than many of the band's other albums. But the album did still have the type of dreamy reverb that often distinguishes the band's work. In many ways, the album sounds like a "grown up" variation of their 2003 indie classic It Still Moves.

But there's certainly no such reverb to be found on Live From RCA Studio A, as James tones everything down to the barest acoustic ethos. Although they're as about as stripped-down as can be, the tracks on the EP do not suffer from any type of demo-like quality. The live-in-the-studio sound is very clean, helping James avoid a coffee house-like atmosphere. His singing of the songs is as heartfelt as it is gentle, as if he were performing for a paying audience in a very intimate setting. James may as well have been singing a cappella for most of the set, because his guitar is nearly inaudible much of the time, and his vocals alone are able to carry the EP. Although he keeps the volume low, James sings with engaging dynamics throughout, and hits a few high notes for "In Color" and "Love Love Love". In essence, these acoustic tracks expose the bare emotional cores of these seven songs, proving that the material is still effective without the neo-psychedelic treatments.

"Complex" has a vintage feel without its electric layers, reminiscent of a not-so-psychedelic recording from the late-'60's or early-'70's. "Never In The Real World" swaps out the Neil Young-like guitars for a more James Taylor-like subtlety. "Lucky To Be Alive" has a bit less zest than the album version, but it's still more sing-along than most of the other tracks. "In Color" and "Out Of Range" take on more melancholy tones without the electricity. In my opinion, this bare-bones version of "Love Love Love" is preferable to the poppier one on the album. The only song that suffers in this setting is "Regularly Scheduled Programming"; not one of the album's stronger tracks to begin with, it is much too bland and insubstantial in this stripped-down state.

Live From RCA Studio A is worthwhile for fans of James and his band, as it shows an unusual -- and satisfying -- dimension of his craft.

My Morning Jacket "Live From RCA Studio A" (ATO Records ATO0605) 2022

Track Listing:

1. Complex
2. Never In The Real World
3. Lucky To Be Alive
4. In Color
5. Regularly Scheduled Programming
6. Love Love Love
7. Out Of Range