Woven behind the songs is a rich production replete with reverb-rinsed guitars,...
Sid Smith 2007
Though he’s always been a walking talking compendium of the offbeat and curious since his Wrong Eyed Jesus debut in 1997, Jim White’s fourth album truly consolidates his reputation as a curator of the quaint and sometimes queasy Southern gothic. Here the pungent clamour of religion, grits, disappointment and impending fate loom heavy and oppressive in the air.
Perhaps the best example of this can be found on the relentlessly forbidding “Take Me Away.” Over a clattering railroad background, White delivers a tragic tale of a mother and her crazy son at the ends of their respective tether. 'She told them TAKE HIM AWAY! TAKE MY SON AWAY! ‘cause after 20 long years I have simply run out of prayers to prayer'. With unhappiness so severely stamped into the souls of these characters, salvation and oblivion look pretty much like the same thing after a while.
Things get intensely personal on the confessional “Plywood Superman”, a devastating account of an indifferent father whose thoughtless undermining of his offspring continues long after death. Sitting next to “Pieces Of Heaven”, dealing with White’s hope that his two daughters will look back on him with the kind of love he feels for them, the positioning of these two opposites is emotionally overwhelming.
Woven behind the songs is a rich production replete with reverb-rinsed guitars, heat-hazed gentrified strings, spicy horns, and, on the sublime “Jailbird”, a persistently lonesome harmonica echoing the years spent, as White puts it, 'lost and alone and hurt'.
Naturally such weighty topics are flecked with levity and light. The cornball country and western excursion of “Turquoise House” entertains, pedal-steel redemption is to be found in “A Town Called Amen” and the simmering alt country stews of “Crash Into The Sun” and “Fruit Of The Vine” are pleasingly seared though with Mat ‘Pistol’ Stoessel’s smoking slide guitar.
Though the waters charted here will be familiar to veteran White watchers, newcomers can expect to be plunged headlong into a turbulent though ultimately uplifting baptism of discovery and wonder on his best album to date.