Although they first presented themselves as devotees of Neil Young’s country-tinged classic rock, My Morning Jacket increased their sound throughout the early 2000s, embracing everything from neo-psychedelia to Americana, funk, prog, and reggae. By the time Evil Urges arrived in mid-2008, they had successfully molded themselves into Kentucky’s answer to Wilco: a band rooted in alt-country and rock & roll, but given to sonic experimentation and unexpected genre changes at every turn.
My Morning Jacket’s leader is vocalist/guitarist Jim James a.k.a Yim Yames, who crafted the band in 1998 alongside his cousin Johnny Quaid (guitar), Two-Tone Tommy (bass), and J. Glenn (drums). Headquartered in James’ hometown of Louisville, KY, the band put forth its debut on Darla Records in 1999, with keyboardist Danny Cash joining the lineup one year later. Although The Tennessee Fire was most modestly popular in the U.S., it became a genuine hit overseas, particularly in the Netherlands. My Morning Jacket responded by launching a tour in Europe, where they were featured in a Dutch documentary film and received accolades from the Dutch material press. A Christmas EP was issued in 2000, but it was My Morning Jacket’s follow-up effort — 2001’s At Dawn — that helped increase their audience at home. Jim James recorded his vox in a grain silo, and the resulting reverb-heavy style of music became a hallmark of the band’s early work. Upon the album’s stateside release, James’ best friend from childhood, Patrick Hallahan, was recruited as the band’s new drummer.
My Morning Jacket maintained a grueling schedule throughout the early 2000s, hitting the road with such acts as Guided by Voices, the Doves, and the Foo Fighters. They also made the jump to a major label (RCA/ATO Records) for the 2003 release of It Still Moves, but the frantic pace had already taken an irreparable toll on Quaid and Cash. Tired and burned out, the members announced their departure in January 2004. Keyboardist Bo Koster and guitarist Carl Broemel joined in their place, and the band continued to tour as a unified five-piece. My Morning Jacket’s energy remained, but their style of music took an experimental turn on 2005’s Z. Produced by John Leckie, the record did away with the heavy reverb that blanketed the band’s earlier efforts, while the addition of synthesizers and reggae textures introduced audiences to My Morning Jacket’s experimental side. Tracks from Z were also present on Okonokos, a live album put forth in 2006, and the band’s sonic experimentations continued with Evil Urges. Arriving in June 2008, the record highlighted James’ expanding vocal range, his bandmates’ fascination with Prince, and My Morning Jacket’s eagerness to challenge the boundaries of alternative country-rock. After giving concerts in support of the album, the bandmates spent several years pursuing their own projects, with Jim James joining the indie supergroup Monsters of Folk and Carl Broemel releasing a solo album.