Darkly seductive like that preacher’s son who smelled of sex and whiskey and spoke redemption back in high school, Jim White’s debut album Wrong-Eyed Jesus beguiles the listener into riding shotgun from the git-go: “Big ole car moving fast, watch the world go spinning by/Little wheels inside my brain, God I wonder where I’m going/Where you going? Need a ride/We got time to see a movie.” Thus, the ride begins: a mystical, heady brew of Jesus, bloody hearts, angels and heaven, all set to the lo-fi layered melodies of guitar, banjo, harp, accordion and some eccentric harmonizing courtesy of Victoria Williams.
By turns, White is circuit preacher whipping the congregation into a frenzy, long tall troubled drink of water distressing all the pretty young cross-legged ladies, and an amazing storyteller who, if you read the press kit, has garnered the likely comparison to Flannery O’Connor (read: dark, haunting, strange, Southern). All of these plus some Tom Waits, Beck, Daniel Lanois, even Robbie Robertson.
Yet this is a distinctly original and personal record, made by a man who grew up bathed in the muggy, buggy, Pentecostal white gospel of Florida, later to become involved with pro surfing, employed as a fashion model and a cab driver. These varied experiences have surely contributed to a rich and peculiar voice in American music. “Angel-Land” begins with the sound of dogs barking down the road, followed by the pomp of a funereal organ, which leads a two part vocal (White and Williams)” “I cannot be superman no more/I cannot walk on the high wire in my mind … Suddenly and somehow I lost all my desire/To shine, to shine like sun.” The intimacy is not so much implied as embedded, as the voice, the stories, are lived in themselves, at once well-worn and dirty, unrepentantly sweet.