Yim Yames, Tribute To
May F. Chung
While most new indie artists come up with new and innovative collections of songs and lyrics, others pay tribute to classic singer/songwriters who still influence bands today. Phosphorescent’s tribute to Willie Nelson with To Willie, Beck’s nod to The Velvet Underground & Nico with his Record Club project, and finally Jim James of the My Morning Jacket fame with his project to the late, great George Harrison with Tribute To.
By far the most emotive and sincere tribute out of the aforementioned records, Yim Yames (as he monikers himself on this EP) creates an atmospheric twang sound all his own as he transforms Beatles and Harrison solo songs into almost different songs entirely. Recorded within days after George Harrison’s death in November 2001, Jim James played into a borrowed eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder and shared his introspective tribute. James’ interpretation of Harrison standards like “My Sweet Lord” and “All Things Must Past” are as unique as they are sobering and melancholy. A lone acoustic guitar, an occasional banjo and ghost-like backup vocals are all Jim James uses to cope with the lost of the former Beatle.
The record begins with probably the most solemn Beatles song Harrison ever wrote, “Long, Long, Long.” A quiet and slow song in its own right, Jim James’ cover captures the essence of the song with a few chord strums and string-picks going into a staccato in the chorus as his voice strains as he sings, “So many tears I was searching / So many tears I was wasting / Oh, oh.”
The record goes on with a lesser-known Harrison hit “Behind that Locked Door,” although James’ cover is taken in a much different context than the original. His version is less romantic, but seems more consoling. His ethereal voice and slow tempo make this track hauntingly beautiful yet comforting. The same sentiments can be said for another underappreciated Harrison song, “Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll),” which both appear on Harrison’s All Things Must Pass disk.
In an approach all his own, Jim James’ rendition of a Beatles-Harrison classic “Love You To” replaces the psychedelic sitar with a much more heartfelt banjo. The strongest songs on the EP remain Harrison’s own most-listened-to solo material. Jim James’ “My Sweet Lord” still resonates with “Hallelujah, hallelujah / Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,” except instead of a more joyful disposition they are eerie and despairing, but gorgeous nonetheless. “All Things Must Past” completes this EP – just as our own personal troubles and turbulences affect our lives, Jim James’ cover reminds the listener of better times and overcoming sorrow, just as he does with the passing of perhaps one of his favorite artists. James does everything right by the late George Harrison; upon listening to this CD, any fan of the Beatles or George Harrison or music in general will believe so too. His heart, his confused feelings and his doleful voice immediately shine and open the listener’s ears to a very special tribute that is unlike any other.
A portion of the proceeds from this record will be donated to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.