Jim White to play first 09 gig at Largo in LA before heading off on his March Australia tour with John Doe
Luaka Bop’s neo-southern country-gothic performer and alt country’s most “out there” and original voice, Jim White, just released the LIVE mini-album “A Funny Little Cross to Bear“.
One Night Only! 2.28 Largo at Coronet Theater- LA with John Doe
Joe Henry on Jim White:
Joe Henry has written and recorded 10 albums, produced 21 more for other artists, and co-produced countless more, including Jim White’s Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See. I wanted nothing to do with Jim White when, years ago, I first had his demo pressed upon me. I mean, another singer/songwriter –a poet of a particular dark and Southern sensibility (and one that my own wife alleged to be “brilliant and strange” even as she held the aforementioned cassette at arm’s length, as if a bit afraid of residue).
Who wants to know?
Not me, I can assure you.
But I took the tape anyway, walking toward the car, if only to end the conversation; and I put it in the player if only so I could say I did, and so that I might reference a song by title when, later that evening, I’d be dismissing it.
I recall now that I was driving along Fountain Avenue, approaching Hollywood, when the first song came on. I won’t say that I nearly drove off the road, but I did pull over to the curb in deference to the possibility when I found myself struck by a confluence of elation and despair, as is the case when I chance to hear something that I believe -given its hallucinatory power, its balance of luminance and foreboding- I should’ve written myself; nay, would’ve written, given a little more time, goddam it. I sat quiet and I listened. And then I rewound the tape and played it again.
Back in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was confronted with the embarrassing fact that he was powerless to stop the thousands of civil rights marchers that were closing ranks and headed for Washington, his simple solution was to become part of the movement -to become its patron saint, no less. Likewise, when I felt myself trumped, verse after verse, by Jim’s sprawling and ambitious artistry, I did the only thing a self-respecting songwriter might do, with a mind to his public image and secret vanity: I volunteered for duty. And thus began my association and working relationship with Jim White: singer, songwriter, author, actor; Florida native; Georgia taxpayer; former New York City cabdriver and runway fashion model; would-be seminarian; the father of two and, generally speaking, a holistic artist intent on moving forward while seeming to walk backward…a veritable disco moonwalker dressed like Tom Joad. With sideburns.
Jim has to date issued four albums under his own name and steam: each one reeking of its own distinct perfume; all of them collectively speaking with a unified sense and (non) sensibility. No mean feat, that one. And now here he is, offering a new “live mini album,” as if he thinks he’ll trick us all into thinking the small gesture doesn’t itself draw a plenty-wide arc, doesn’t have grand ambitions of its own. He must think we’re crazy. Or stupid. In any case, I for one refuse to be fooled. I hear within this 7-song collection much ghostly conjuring and revisionist theorizing upon life, liberty and the pursuit of truckstop angels with crooked teeth, checkered pasts, and Jesus programmed on the speed-dial of their cell phones.
Jim White, though -herein, and whether or not he wants to admit it- is opening his heart and dropping his veil a little. He stands before us a repentant pilgrim; and the “live” versions of these songs reveal Jim in a posture less guarded than perhaps I’ve ever heard him: clear-eyed and filled with wonder. And it all leaves me feeling much the same.
Of course, this may well be a theatrical ploy too; but in any case, I find that I remain what I have always been –even if reluctantly- from the very beginning: a true believer.