Track Review: Jim James, “A New Life”

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Jim James debuted a new song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this week, taking the stage in his best formalwear and backing himself up with an all-star band that included members of the Roots. Together, the guys ripped into “A New Life,” the fourth track from James’ new solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God.

A slow-building doo-wop tune that’s earnest at points and schmaltzy at others, “A New Life” finds James turning down the volume and embracing a sound that My Morning Jacket rarely touched. Instead of electric guitars, there’s a ripping saxophone solo. Instead of pounding percussion, there are handclaps and a simple bass-and-snare pattern. The whole thing peaks during the final minute, where James bellows, “I want a new life once moooooooore,” like an old-school crooner on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The best part? James plays most of the instruments himself, from horns to piano. That’s not to say “A New Life” didn’t sound great on Fallon, with a drumline banging out the thumping beat and a handful of guitarists, including Captain Kirk Douglas, strumming along on their acoustics. For a man who never released a full-length solo album before this week, though, “A New Life” is the perfect intro to… well, a new sound.

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