At a time when Jim White’s personal life has hit a roadblock he has served up a masterclass in song writing. His wife left him for “a younger model” during the creation of this, his 5th full-length album. The adversity has brought the best out in him. Now, don’t think that Where it Hits You is a wallowing mess of self-pity, far from it. Rather it’s a reflection of circumstances and in some places it’s upbeat and downright quirky.
Before he ever picked up a guitar, Jim trained as a film maker and this latest release would sit comfortably as the soundtrack to a film of the events that have taken place in his recent life. The songs convey gentleness, restlessness, an uncertainty alongside Jim’s ingrained eccentricity. He is so very strange and that comes out in his work.
The scene is set with the dream-like drifter, Chase the Dark Away. It is serious and it is sombre but evokes a sense of hope despite its dark Americana style. Then we get Sunday’s Refrain – a song that dissects the breakdown in communication within a relationship. This track really shouts quality in song writing. The Velvet Underground couldn’t have written a song that was a better fit for their debut LP. A positive song about helplessness, Jim White style.
As the album progresses a lonely figure emerges, making the most of and taking the best out of the situation. No hatred or bitterness. Walking down a lonesome highway, singing sad songs for no-one, he says, though it doesn’t feel so desperate as the tempo and general outlook becomes more upbeat.
Infinite Mind – his collaboration with fellow-Floridian, Terri Binion was, by his own admission, a “mistake song”. Sometimes they’re the best songs. Complete with jazz chords and near Dixieland jazz accompaniment, this is where the album takes a twist in a more tongue-in-cheek, mischievous direction. Along with the downright funk rock of Here We Go, White ensures that we are not bogged down in his troubles. Even the heartfelt What Rocks Will Never Know is cut with a sing-a-long (even whistle-a-long) chorus.
Where It Hits You draws near its conclusion with a couple of more conventional folk rock story-telling tunes. One, a requiem for a friend whose demise was caused by heartbreak and the other a brooding landscape painted in sustain-driven piano and misty, echoing plucked acoustic guitar. Both tracks are beautifully constructed around White’s naked and thoughtful lyrics. The introspective musings continue into Epilogue For A Marriage, which speaks for itself. With its elongated, shoe-gazing introduction and sparse, sorrowful banjo this is the closest we get to feeling his pain.
The positivity returns in the album’s closer, Why It’s Cool – a gentle and yet memorable look back at life and past times and everything that got the writer to where he is right now. “So, everything’s cool…” he’s gonna be okay.
Jim has been around for a while. It has been 15 years since he released “Wrong-Eyed Jesus” and with his latest release he proves that while he’s not immune to tribulation, he’s in this for the journey. He’s the real thing.
Review by: Craig Walker
1. Chase The Dark Away
2. Sunday’s Refrain
3. The Way Of Alone
4. State Of Grace
5. Infinite Mind
6. What Rocks Will Never Know
7. Here We Go
8. My Brother’s Keeper
9. That Wintered Blue Sky
10. Epilogue To A Marriage
11. Why It’s Cool
UK Tour Dates
6/6 BRIGHTON, Ballroom
7/6 LONDON, Union Chapel
8/6 NEWCASTLE, The Cluny
10/6 MANCHESTER, Quays Theatre – The Lowry
11/6 BIRMINGHAM, The Library – HMV Institute
12/6 BRISTOL, Thekla
Where It Hits You is released on Loose Music (20 Feb 2012)