My Morning Jacket are busy working on their back-to-basics sixth record, but from October 18-23, the Louisville, KY, band will revisit their catalogue by performing all five albums, in chronological order, at Terminal 5 in New York City. With era-specific demos, b-sides, outtakes, and covers included, the material is a lot to remember, even for one of America's best live bands. Luckily, MMJ have a secret helper in rehearsals: an iPod.
"There were a couple times we had to pull out an iPod and play a song over the P.A. so we could remember what parts we played," bassist Tom "Two-Tone Tommy" Blankenship tells SPIN.com. "The b-sides and the songs from the Christmas record we put out a few years ago were really tough. None of us had listened to those in quite a while [and] others we have never played, like "Butch Cassidy" from [their 1999 debut] The Tennessee Fire. I've never even seen [frontman] Jim [James] play it solo live."
MMJ are notorious for their three-hour-plus concerts, but Blankenship admits that they were initially hesitant to agree to the five-night retrospective. "It's tough when you blow the doors down one night, then come back the next night and try again with an entirely different set."
He adds that each album's combination of quieter, tender acoustic ballads and heavier, 100-mph rock tracks will give all five nights depth. "It's going to be a slow, steady burn." And what about surprise guests? "Yep. There will certainly be some! But I don't want to give away too much!"
Here, alongside photos from the band's history, Blankenship discusses the albums, from The Tennessee Fire to their latest LP, 2008's Evil Urges.
-- William Goodman
Photo: MMJ live shot for Evil Urges (from left: Carl Broemel, Patrick Hallahan, Tom Blankenship, Bo Koster, Jim James)
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