Friday, August 24, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Jim White, by JD

One of the comments beneath the first video here (Alabama Chrome) describes Jim White's music as "outsider art, bluegrass style" and that sounds to me like a very good assessment  although it is not all bluegrass, there is a lot more to it than that.

His first album, released in 1997, had the strange title of "The Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted Wrong Eyed Jesus." A title like that is enough to make everyone sit up and take notice and some details of the effect the album had is explained lower down the page before the final video, 'Christmas Day' which is from the film and was also on the album No Such Place.

I first came across his music in 2001 when I bought the album "No Such Place." Can't remember how or why it came to my attention but I'm glad it did because the music is very different as well as being very good. The difficulty with choosing these songs was wondering what to leave out!

In 2003 the BBC commissioned a documentary based on the 'Wrong Eyed Jesus' album. Why the BBC and not an American producer is a mystery. The film is currently on the BBC iPlayer (I think it is still available) If not then it can be found on YouTube and it is worth watching.

"Searching for The Wrong-Eyed Jesus" is a captivating and compelling road trip through the creative spirit of the Southern U.S. Director Andrew Douglas's film follows "Alt Country" singer Jim White through a gritty terrain of churches, prisons, truck stops, biker bars and coal mines. This is a journey through a very real contemporary Southern U.S., a world of marginalised white people and their unique and home-made society. Along the way are road-side encounters with modern musical mavericks including The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, 16 Horsepower and David Johansen; old time banjo player Lee sexton; rockabilly and mountain Gospel churches - and novelist Harry Crews telling grisly stories down a dirt track.

It is a collage of stories and testimonies, almost invariably of sudden death, sin and redemption: Heaven and Hell, with no middle ground. And all the while a strange Southern Jesus looms in the background. Jim White reflects upon what it is about this baffling place that inspires musicians and writers, or as he puts it "trying to find the gold tooth in God's crooked smile."

It is an elegy to and a requiem for a world we have all lost.

No comments: