Great novelists are not frequently great songwriters, and vice versa; not many people read Bob Dylan's Tarantula for any reason beyond curiosity, and anyone who has heard the songs Thomas McGuane co-wrote with Warren Zevon knows they don't rank high in either man's pantheon. So fans of novelist Jonathan Lethem and singer/songwriter Walter Salas-Humara had good reason to be wary when the two teamed up with producers and multi-instrumentalists Phil Hernandez and Chris Maxwell to form a new musical project, I'm Not Jim. Thankfully, Lethem and Salas-Humara have turned out to be a strong and imaginative songwriting team, and I'm Not Jim's debut album, You Are All My People, is clever, well-crafted pop music that represents a notable departure from Salas-Humara's work with the Silos. Salas-Humara sounds looser, edgier, and more daring on these songs than he does with his own material, and while with Lethem at his side these tunes are wordier than the average Silos number, they maintain the tight focus and first-person perspective that works for a song rather than a story. Just as importantly, while "The Pitchers Gave Up" and "Uncomplicated" bear a close resemblance to the roots rock that's the Silos' bread and butter, Hernandez and Maxwell throw a wall of fractured electronics, keyboard pads, and rhythm beds against the melodies that turns them into something fresh and lively without robbing Salas-Humara of his musical personality. And while a few spoken word bits are included on the album, "Howard" is funny enough to keep things moving at a solid clip and the jumbled edits of "Walks Into" make it into something different than just an author's reading. In short, you don't have to be a literary groupie or a Silos completist to find plenty worth exploring in You Are All My People.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming