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Jim White - A Funny Little Cross to Bear

  by Anthony Middleton

published: 9 / 10 / 2008

Jim White - A Funny Little Cross to Bear
Label: Luaka Bop
Format: CDS


Beautifully-constructed, but soon tiresome Americana on live EP from Alabama-born singer-songwriter, Jim White

The subject of a BBC documentary about the seamy side of the American south in 2004, Jim White is a raconteur, a sceptical ambassador for Dixie and a superb singer. Once indoctinated by Christians and still hugely influenced by religion, he is the epitome of Americana. A musical counterpart to Coen brothers movies. This is a longish EP of live numbers and a bit of banter. Both are of high quality. The only real indication that this is a live album is the applause at end of each song. Otherwise they are of studio quality. Banter-wise, White does not descend to cheap jokes or posturing. Instead, he tells tales, like his songs, of a picaresque life on the lam from religion and occasionally the law. I am sure it is all a pleasure live, but it is a real mistake to release it for posterity as by the second listen, it becomes tiresome, and by the third or forth, you are skipping it. The opening 'Stranger Candy' is a series of cautionary tales of innocence lost and hard lives told across resonating arpeggiated guitar. 'Jailbird' is more of a country ballad focussing on the need to escape from the prejudices and bigotries of his culture, which he obviously loves and is wary of in equal measure. There is a fusion of gospel and blues in 'Alabama Chrome', a nearly spoken appraisal of the state that has been a perennial subject for singers from Leadbelly to Neil Young to the defensive apologists Lynard Skynard. Injecting a bit of biblical mocking self aggrandisement, 'Jim 3:16', where we hear that “a bar is just a church where they serve beer.” Jim White’s world, like Tom Waits, is one that feels alien and familiar at the same time, one that feels part reportage and part fantasy. This EP, anecdotes apart, is a beautifully constructed, sparse, dispatch from these badlands that we feel equally repelled and attracted to. Even in so short a format, Jim White’s humour, intelligence and humanity shines through, but I would be more intrigued to sample his studio albums or see him in the flesh than to listen to this.

Track Listing:-
1 Stranger Candy
2 Jailbird
3 Counting Numbers In The Air
4 Alabama Chrome
5 Jim 3:16
6 Plywood Superman

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