The ever-elusive Americana maverick Jim White returns with his most upbeat, hallucinogenic record to date, out 30 October on Loose.
Known for his catalogue of dark ruminations on all things Southern, White’s latest outing, Misfit’s Jubilee, features a nonstop parade of manic, blue-collar conflagrations exploring realms dark and light, mystic and mundane, cynical and heartfelt; all presented within a buoyant, hook-laden sonic framework.
The raucous opener, Monkey in a Silo, provides a delirious peek into the drug-addled psyche of a teenage dope smuggler. From that ignominious jumping off point down the rabbit hole we go, pin-balling through a maze of quirky, marginalized characters jubilantly embracing various stages of existential undoing—who knew falling to pieces could be so much fun?
And yet nestled comfortably amidst the high-octane sturm und drang of Misfit’s Jubilee lie several sanguine jewels; the ebullient 80’s indie folk-rockesque The Sum of What We’ve Been and the moody, piano-driven Mystery of You come breezing in as bonafide crowd pleasers, dispelling any thought of relegating White to some narrow, fringe-artist category.
Known for his intricately layered, highly cinematic production values (his songs appear in numerous film and TV scores; Breaking Bad, last year’s feature film El Camino, and more) White’s novelistic eye for detail is fully on display in the darkly comedic Highway of Lost Hats. Featuring a lovelorn loser on the run from the law, White juxtaposes samples from actual US police chases against a steady stream of Southern Rock cliches. Highway of Lost Hats is a sonic carjacking veering recklessly across several major genre lanes, rendering it more a short noir film than a song—something to be watched, only with one’s ears, not eyes.
Plunging headlong into Misfit’s Jubilee one central truth emerges—the further White dives into the material, the deeper said material gets, culminating with the closing couplet of epic show stoppers. First comes the sprawling kitsch of My Life’s a Stolen Picture (replete with stadium anthem chants and shout-outs to Bigfoot), but the ribald mood is quickly displaced by the most overtly political song on the record, The Divided States of America. A scathing indictment of the sorry state of affairs in his homeland, White’s deadpan delivery brilliantly underscores the banal evil at play presently in the US.
“Yeah, it’s time to call bullshit on all that nonsense.” White says from his home in rural Georgia, “Us freaks, we gotta take up musical arms and start speaking truth to power here. If we don’t, who exactly will?”
Recorded primarily at Studio Caporal in Antwerp, Belgium, this record marks a departure from White’s usual hopscotch approach to collaboration—no bevy of celebrated guest artists and studios scattered across the globe this go-round. No, it’s just multi-instrumentalist White, his longtime drummer Marlon Patton, plus trusted Belgian sidemen Geert Hellings (guitar/banjo) and Nicolas Rombouts (electric & stand-up bass/keys), and the pared-down chemistry on display here lends Misfit’s Jubilee a sonic integrity that far exceeds any of White’s previous efforts.
Misfit’s Jubilee draws from an array of original songs penned by White over the span of several decades—scattered among the recent compositions are songs back-burnered in previous epochs by White’s major label handlers, this after said songs were deemed too extreme for his “brand”. With no such middle-man constraints this go-round, in Misfit’s Jubilee White has found the perfect vehicle to unleash his twisted take on southern folk rock. As White’s protagonist in the song Wonders Never Cease defiantly declares, “A motel’s as good a place as any to let your demons fly!”
Get ready to be dazzled.