It\u2019s been a relatively light touring year for My Morning Jacket. But one of the popular Southern-flavored alt-rock outfit\u2019s sporadic gigs included an appearance in the Blue Ridge back in August\u2014a headlining slot at the annual Lockn\u2019 Festival in bucolic Nelson County, Va. During the set the band ripped through some of the biggest tunes from its near-two-decade career, which started back in Louisville, Ky., in the late 90s. From the space-jazz jam in an extended \u201cSteam Engine\u201d to the twangy, full-throttle garage rock of old-school favorite \u201cMahgeetah,\u201d the group delivered a commanding performance that lasted for more than two hours.\r\nA surprising moment in the extended festival set came when Jacket frontman Jim James started crooning a version of Hal David and Burt Bacharach\u2019s 1965 ballad \u201cWhat the World Needs Now is Love.\u201d Midway through the song James addressed the crowd, saying \u201cThe world is a crazy place right now. We need to let each other know how much we love each other, regardless of race, regardless of creed, regardless of sexual orientation.\u201d\r\nDropping such a saccharine song into a show filled atmospheric, edgy sounds could\u2019ve come across as cheesy or ironic, but after a long summer of headlines dominated by social and political unrest, it managed to bring an exhausted, sweaty crowd into a unified sing-along. James, to his credit, has long been full of surprises that seem to work. As the shaggy, somewhat iconic leader of a band that lives just below the mainstream but possesses a fervent fan base and teeters between the worlds of indie and jam rock, he\u2019s often been willing to experiment.\r\nBeyond My Morning Jacket\u2019s seven studio albums, James has released two solo efforts. The first, the 2009 EP Tribute To (released under the name Yim Yames), is full of quiet George Harrison covers that sound like they were recorded in an attic, and the follow up, 2013\u2019s full-length Regions of Light and Sound of God, was an ambitious piece of DIY electro-rock, influenced by Lynd Ward\u2019s wordless novel, God\u2019s Man. This month James is releasing another full album, Eternally Even, out November 4.\r\nLike the message he shared during the Lockn\u2019 set, James is using the album as a call for humanity during indisputably troubled times. In a statement released on his latest effort, which will be released intentionally just ahead of the U.S. presidential election, James said: \u201cI wanted to make an album that hopefully speaks to the issues of the day, many of which, sadly, are issues we have been dealing with since the beginning of time. Most of what I think about right now is how so many things in the world are SO f#@ked up\u2014our political system is broken and corrupt ... our Earth is being destroyed by climate change ... people are not treating each other with equality and respect ... and I think, 'Are we going to make it? Are we going to figure it out and fix it before it's too late? Can we ever truly open our hearts and embrace love in all its beautiful forms?' I think it's still possible."\r\nThat optimism doesn\u2019t immediately shine through in the lyrics of protest song \u201cSame Old Lie,\u201d which on paper look like they should be coming from Woody Guthrie strumming an acoustic guitar: \u201cHate crimes\/Shelter lines\/They try to take what\u2019s yours and mine.\u201d But James delivers them in a way that doesn\u2019t wallow in darkness. The song cruises with a soulful pop groove that belongs in a dance club, and as the album progresses any hints of anger evolve into pleas for peaceful unity. The two-part \u201cWe Aren\u2019t Getting Any Younger\u201d starts with a mood-shifting, down-tempo electronic instrumental before segueing into a seize-the-day acid jazz poem. Similarly, \u201cIn the Moment\u201d rebukes apathy through a hazy retro funk jam.\r\nSlightly reminiscent of Sam Cooke\u2019s Civil Rights anthem \u201cA Change is Gonna Come,\u201d James ultimately sees good things on the horizon in the R&B-fueled \u201cThe World\u2019s Smiling Now,\u201d a melodic meditation on finding comfort through chaos in the held hand of another. Inspiring music is just a part of what the world needs, and fortunately James has that covered.\r\n\r\nKeller Williams\u2019 Bluegrass Thanksgiving\r\nKeller Williams nimbly jumps between genres. He\u2019s best known for performing as a one-man band, an acoustic troubadour with a loop rig that allows him to incorporate a wide range of additional sounds beyond his guitar. But in recent years Williams has been collaborating with other musicians on a more regular basis. He often tours with his hard-hitting funk band, More Than a Little, or in projects with bluegrass greats Larry Keel and the Travelin\u2019 McCourys. He\u2019ll lean on the latter style later this month during two shows Williams is calling \u201cThanksforgrassgiving.\u201d\r\nFor the pair of gigs, taking place at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., on November 25, and at the National in Richmond, Va., on November 26, Williams is assembling a roster of string band all-stars, including Jeff Austin on mandolin, Jay Starling on dobro, and Nicky Sanders of the Steep Canyon Rangers on fiddle. Starling\u2019s band, Love Canon, which plays bluegrass versions of 80s hits, will open both shows. Williams also announced he will play a New Year\u2019s Eve show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Md., that will include a set of Grateful Dead tunes from his Grateful Gospel project, which features guitarist John Kadlecik, formerly of the Dead side project Furthur.\r\nJim James will support his new solo record with a limited run of tour dates, including a handful in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast: November 19 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., November 22 at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Ga., November 23 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., and November 25 at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Ky.