Cover albums can do more than reinterpret or reinvigorate familiar songs. They can also tell you something about the person or people doing the covering. They can re-contextualize an artist’s own work, suggesting roots and creating resonances for their themes and sensibilities.

Tribute To, Jim James’s EP of stripped-down George Harrison covers, didn’t do much either for the ex-Beatle or for the My Morning Jacket frontman. Its main achievement was to invite one to speculate on why hipster aesthetes are so drawn to the Fab Four’s third-best songwriter.

Happily, James’s latest batch of covers, Tribute To 2, resonates a whole lot more. It helps that he casts his net much wider this time around, snatching up tunes by Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and even Emerson Lake and Palmer.

James doesn’t make all of these songs his own — no one’s going to steal “Funny How Time Slips Away” from Nelson or Al Green — but overall, he does a solid job of expressing himself through other people’s words. For example, these lines from “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” could serve as his epitaph: [LISTEN]

James’s cover of the jazz standard “Midnight, the Stars and You” feels like a hipster wink — it’s the song playing at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining — but other than that, he plays most of these songs straight. His restrained take on “Crying in the Chapel” manages to top Elvis Presley’s schlocky solemnity: [LISTEN]

His smirk-free rendition of ELP’s “Lucky Man” is surprisingly affecting too: [LISTEN]

Tracks like these help turn Tribute To 2 into a portrait of the artist as a quirky, thoughtful, decent man. Churls might ask whether James has written anything as iconic himself, but even they shouldn’t mind hearing him go through his music collection.