Jim White's music seems to come from a world all his own, a curious place where Flannery O'Connor and Big Star's Third hold sway as key cultural signposts, and with each album he adds a few more details on life in his Southern gothic universe. White's latest collection of missives from his version of the Deep South, 2012's Where It Hits You, is his first full-length project since leaving David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, but if you imagined that being without a successful patron would cause White's art to suffer, your fears were unfounded -- this album finds White in typically fine and eccentric form, spinning tales of oddball characters accompanied by music that's often beautiful but also spectral and curiously introverted, conjuring the sound of ghosts drifting through a lonely town at three in the morning. Considering that he also dabbles in filmmaking and visual art, it's no surprise that there's a welcome sophistication in White's music, but there's also a very real avoidance of self-conscious artifice and little that's pretentious; no matter how odd his tales may be, there's a genuine understanding of the idiosyncrasies and strange fates of his characters, and whether he's sharing the story of a morbidly obese sibling in "My Brother's Keeper" or lamenting a relationship that's gone to seed in "Epilogue to a Marriage," there's a welcome honesty and authority to this music that's affecting.
“Chase the Dark Away” provides Jim White’s Where It Hits You with as emblematic an opening as it could have, assuming you don’t count simply reading this first song in the tracklist. It has the haunting sort of Americana sound that White’s created throughout his career, but White’s resisting the pull of the dark. Across five meditative minutes, White and his bandmates build a platform for a new outlook, using the lyrics both with and against the music.
From the opening bars of ‘Chase the Dark Away’, it’s clear that Where It Hits You will be a very different prospect to the Jim White of former years; the guy that was searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is no longer with us, though his soul remains. His particular brand of Americana has grown up over the years and has a point to make. As is evidenced by the choice of album title, this is an album of heart break and hurt, a collection of songs built on the trauma of White having been left by his wife – the mother of his children – for a younger man, during the recording of the album.
There were few other songwriters comparable to Jim White when his first album, Wrong-Eyed Jesus, was released in 1997. Bearing a novelistic sense of detail and musical eclecticism, his songs presented a vision of the American South far richer and, at times, more disturbing than any musician working in the field of country music had captured before. He became a mercurial figure from then on, releasing further unclassifiable albums at regular intervals.
It is often the case that the best art is born out of adversity, and that is certainly a maxim that can be applied to ‘Where It Hits You’ - the fifth album from US singer-songwriter Jim White. During the difficult gestation period, White first cut ties with his long-term record label Luaka Bop and, even more discomforting and distressing, his wife left him for another man halfway through recording. It is these twin feelings of upheaval and desolation that characterise a record that is rich in expertly crafted songs with a truly affecting emotional core.
Long time Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ mainstay Kinney has crafted a productive if not particularly commercially successful solo career away from the veteran Southern hard rockers. Now ensconced in New York City, Kinney joined with Anton Fier and his loose knit Golden Palominos collective (Fier produced some D N C albums) for this typically rollicking, thinking man’s hour long set that is one of the highlights of his bulging catalog. Kinney never phones it in but he’s clearly inspired by Fier and his cohorts.
Jim White works in shadows, a chiaroscuro of sound that stretches in intangible atmospherics expanding with unsettled pacing. The Athens, Ga. -based auteur has slid these prismed fractures across his brand of Southern gothic for 15 years, but his Yep Roc debut and sixth proper studio album plays more as an invocation of light against impenetrable darkness, signaled by haunted lead track "Chase the Dark Away.