When it was originally released clear back in 2001, there was a limited-edition version of My Morning Jacket's At Dawn that came with a bonus disc of demo tracks that became one of the more seriously sought-after releases in their entire catalogue. With the band going through somewhat of a recording drought (their Z release came out nearly two years ago, and it followed their previous album It Still Moves by the same amount of time), the group has been plying fans with a slew of non-studio material (including two separate early recordings releases).
At Dawn / Tennessee Fire Demos Package is essentially exactly what the title states, and it's yet another huge batch of material from the group to possibly hold over fans until they put out another studio album. In addition to containing the tracks that were originally issued on the bonus disc of the limited At Dawn run, the group includes several demos recorded at the same time as their debut Tennessee Fire along with a couple live cuts.
The record opens with the short "L.O.Z. Intro," an odd little live-recorded track that finds two keyboards combining for some light, almost new age sounds before guitars and drums rumble in. From there, the release contains ten of the songs that went on to be on At Dawn. Essentially sounding like the solo work of Jim James, just about all the tracks feature only acoustic guitar and vocals (sometimes double-tracked and harmonized). At times, things get a little weird, with various sound effects finding their way into a couple songs (like the garbled, static-laced robot voice on "Lowdown"). One of the better tracks on the release never found its way onto the album, as the traditional spiritual-sounding "Lead Me Father" finds James teaming up with another vocalist on aching piece.
As a whole, the Tennessee Fire demos are a bit more filled-out musically, with mostly full band contributions on the roughly-recorded pieces. Unlike the At Dawn demos, which sound more structured and written, the Tennessee Fire tracks are much more sketch-like, and it's interesting to hear how they developed into the final pieces. In addition to the 15 or so songs from the two albums, there are a couple tracks recorded on WFPK (which have a much higher production value), and the minute-long stoner-riffing of "Magic Man" to close things out. As mentioned above, the quality of the tracks on this release ranges from poor to good (with the live tracks being the best), and while there are some interesting things to discover, the songs themselves are much better in their respective albums. Mostly, it acts as sort of a document of a time, and as a good way for completists to fill in their catalogue for the group.