Sep
16

Album Review – My Graveyard Jaw “Coming Winds”

September 16, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  11 Comments

File My Graveyard Jaw and their album Coming Winds under “Pleasant Surprises of 2012.” Sort of like a poor man’s Punch Brothers, this acoustical string band that features guitar, banjo, violin (not fiddle), cello, and upright bass catches you completely off guard with their progressive approach, excellent songs, and ear for composition.

When you first see the imposing frontman/songwriter Michael James in his big gallon hat, black vest, and permanently-inked mime-like face markings, you feel ripe to be regaled by a revitalization of Outlaw country all about snorting cocaine and shooting your wife. Yeah, not so much with My Graveyard Jaw. Yes, their haunting arrangements can at times evoke the chills of macabre, but this is not a scary, nor a hard or heavy band. The only thing “hardcore” about them is how vigilantly they explore the inner depths of human emotion, and how they astutely set that emotion to music.

Michael James starts this album off blindsiding you with a sweet voice conveying an even sweeter song in “Lucy Lu,” but this is not the tone that bellows from him for the majority of Coming Winds. Instead it is a haughty, tempered growl that is evoked from somewhere in his inner depths, and as it rises, it collects all the innermost emotions and personal dialogues of a man’s life until it is seasoned through with soul, authenticity and character.

This is an album that requires you to listen to the instrumentation to appreciate. As time goes on, you recognize subtleties in the compositions as they grow on you. I would be lying if I said I thought the instrumentation was expert, but that is where the authenticity and roots of this music is aroused. It is a concerto for country folks, to be played where dusty boots meet wooden floors, and where the beauty of American decay and imperfection surround you.

At the same time, the players in spots will totally surprise you, like Scott Potts’ upright bass in the song “Ho Down”, where he momentarily goes away from slapping the notes to playing some crazy, cerebral, noodling part that blows your mind, or when violin player Densie Bonis gives tonal life to the little ghosts that haunt the human brain during the dark hours in “Waste For The Evening.” Michael James never loses sight of the importance of making the music engaging through rhythmic sensibility though, like his enticing banjo parts in those two aforementioned songs. “Waste For The Evening”, “Ho Down”, and “Lucy Lu” were my biggest takeaways from Coming Winds.

Some of the songs did feel a little under-developed, but one of the best parts about this band and this album is you hear a lot of potential and room for growth. Michael James and My Graveyard Jaw are different enough to where they could discover an untapped niche in music and really carve a bold, creative path. I don’t think a band like this could come from anywhere else but New Orleans. They’re just too cool, too weird, and too in tune with their own trends instead of trying to fit in to whatever might be popular in certain scenes.

Please understand, this album could be classified classical just as it could be country. This music is not for everyone, or for every mood. I think the best way to describe it is to say it’s whatever comes out when Michael James rakes the first chord and starts to sing. His songwriting is very folk-like. The instrumentation is where the jazzy, orchestral feel is ordained. Altogether it is just great music no matter what title you name to it.

Keep an eye on this band. They are not what you expect.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Coming Winds Is Available on Farmageddon Records

Preview & Purchase Tracks on Amazon

11 Comments to “Album Review – My Graveyard Jaw “Coming Winds””

  • Probably my biggest discovery from Muddy Roots this year

       2 likes

  • Old news. I’ve had this album for months. Still haven’t heard the new one their selling at their shows yet though.

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    • Well this is the one they handed to me two weeks ago right after their set at Muddy Roots. It’s only old if it’s not new to you.

         2 likes

  • I saw them live in New Orleans a couple years ago and thought they had great potential then. The thing that stands in the way of this recording being recommendable for me is the affected growly voice which he really doesn’t execute sucessfully. It often sounds forced and off key and distracts from the songs instead of enhancing them. The voice he uses on Lucy Lu seems to be his natural voice and the songs would be better served if he would go with what the good lord gave him. Still think there’s some serious potential though based on the quality of the song writing alone and would love to hear if and how this band has grown in the two years since this recording was released. (Note: their website doesn’t show a newer recording other than the one Trig reivewed here.)

       2 likes

  • Im checking these guys out now on spotify thanks to this review. Im liking what i hear so far, but im to far yet. I do have a question for you though, Trig. How would you define the difference between fiddle and violin? I know really fiddle is just slang for violin. I kinda just say when i hear it in an orchestra its violin and when i hear it in bluegrass its a fiddle. Or even one is fast one is slow. But really i would say its the music behind that defines it to an extent. How about you?

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    • That’s a question probably better answered by someone who plays the violin or fiddle, but the reason I listed “violin” is because that’s how My Graveyard Jaw listed it in the liner notes and I found it interesting, especially with the orchestral arrangements of some of the songs.

      I do think it mostly has to do with the style of the music being played as opposed to some dramatic difference in the instruments, but I did have someone who repairs violins (and fiddles) explain to me one time that the bridge of a fiddle usually has less of an arch to make it easier to transition between notes for the speed of bluegrass, while a violin’s is more pronounced. Just like any wooden instrument, tone is very important, though the differences in tone may be subtle or even non-existence to the lay person’s ear. I’m sure there are tonal difference too in between what people may consider a fiddle and violin.

      But I think it is generally accepted that fiddle and violins are the same exact thing.

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  • I thought this sounded basic and raw. There was nothing in the music to make me feel like I was listening to an exceptional instrumentalist, vocalist or songwriter. I dig this style, but think this is amateurish.

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    • I felt it was pretty raw too with my first few listens. As time went on, the genius revealed itself, but as I said in my review, it is a little rough, the instrumentation isn’t exceptional, and some of the songs are under-developed. This one needs an extra few spins, and I heard a lot of potential.

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  • Enjoy these guys a lot. They have room to improve, but I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what they come up with in the future.

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  • The difference between a fiddle and violin is a gunny sack or nice case.

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  • Just saw them play with Crooks at the Howlin’ Wolf here in New Orleans. They rock live.

       0 likes

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