Artist: Jim White
Title: Drill A Hole In That Substrate. . .
by: Ed Canavan
Jim White was born in Pensacola, Florida, raised in a Pentecostal family, got hooked on drugs and Jesus (who hasn't?), has been a surfer, a model, a taxi driver, and now a rising star on the landscape of semi-obscure troubadours plucking and crooning his way down the dusty and lonely roads of modern-day Americana.
Since the bargain-bin obscurity of his debut cd "Wrong Eyed Jesus", Jim White has slowly but surely been pricking up the ears of some formidable folk with his spooky, moody and dark take on minimalist bluesy folk music. David Byrne being one, who's imprint, Luaka Bop, has brought JW's last 2 releases to his irreverently eclectic roster of artists, skimming rocks across the banal streams of major label consciousness, and Joe Henry being another. Henry's production on a number of tracks on "Drill a Hole…", seems to have left an indelible mark on White's already evocative amalgam of twisted folk, lowlife blues, and bourbon- soaked religious imagery. Forgoing the more upbeat tempos of some of his previous releases, White keeps to a slow crawl on much of "Drill..", without losing any of his lyrical dexterity or vocal emotiveness. His music meanders and staggers like a blind savant navigating the dark and unnerving streams of conscious as his voice mumbles and murmurs like a drunken priest quarantined to a rickety confessional in a one horse town.
"Static on the Radio", the opening tune, is a simple gem portraying the acceptance of realization to the fact that some things can never be changed no matter how hard we think they could be. Accentuated by the soft-spoken backing vocals of Aimee Mann, it plays out like a short film on an endless loop in the mind of a trailer park philosopher.
The combination of his lilting melodies and consummate storytelling of wrong turns, dead weight, lost love, and saviors in motor-homes owes as much to roots music as it does to modern day artists such as Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, and the aforementioned Joe Henry, most evident on tracks such as "Combing my Hair in a Brand new Style", and the brilliantly observant "Objects in Motion", where he pleads "You can't spend the whole damn day loving what you need you cast away".
Throughout "Drill.." White's lyrics paint pictures that are rarely seen by the naked eye, somehow managing to bring things into a fuzzy kind of focus that is neither concrete nor vague, constantly urging the listener to seek their own interpretation of the unique perspective he puts forth, like all good music should.