Jim White: Misfit’s Jubilee

The Press release calls Mr White an “ever-elusive Americana maverick,” famous for his “dark ruminations on all things Southern”.
This new album is varied, from White calling like a circus barker to a stadium-friendly song that wouldn’t sound out of place in a U2 set.
The album opens with a fake tannoy train announcement but Monkey In A Silo is not about trains: it’s a peek into the drug-addled psyche of a teenage dope smuggler. It’s a strong opener, quirky and the vocals delivered through what sounds like a megaphone (turned down), some nice Doors-eque keyboards, and trumpet.
Next track Wonders Never Cease could be a Tom Waits track for the beat while The Sum of What We’ve Been is a nice acoustic folk/pop crowd pleaser. Where Would I Be is quirkier – cowbell and vocals back on the megaphone. Smart Ass Reply kicks in with someone having a bad dream, B52s-style chords but then turns into a complex song that has you admiring its structure if not loving the tune. It’s followed by the first album standout Mystery of You, which opens with thoughtful piano before a roll of the bass introduces a bluesy acoustic section. The song picks up speed to be a likeable pop/rock tune before it goes stadium pleasing with some Edge-y guitar.
It’s a clever and musically accomplished album – multi-instrumentalist White recorded it in Antwerp with drummer Marlon Patton, plus Belgian sidemen Geert Hellings (guitar/banjo) and Nicolas Rombouts (electric and stand-up bass/keys). A review we found said it was “pared-down” and better than his previous work – given the complexity here, we wonder what the less pared down music is like.
It’s intelligent and engaging, but we just found it hard to love; he’s a maverick so whatever your expectations are at any point, he’s not going to meet them.
Standouts are Mystery of You and closer, The Divided States of America, clearly about the land riven by Donald Trump, closing with readings from the famous ““Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” and the bible, “Blessed are the peacemakers” … “That’s Jesus Christ talking”. White sounds sincere and it’s a song where his maverick approach and any listener should be in agreement. For fans of quirky rock, the dark and Southern Gothic.

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