Jim White

For more than a decade, songwriter Jim White has pushed the boundaries of alt-country music with his leftfield lyricism and penchant for spacey, downtempo beats; call it gothic y'all-tronica. On his fourth effort for David Byrne's Luaka Bop imprint, White steps back from modern studio alchemy for a more earthy approach that sometimes recalls the swampy sonic hoodoo of Dr. John's classic album Gris Gris. Aided by likeminded gospel-country, folk, and bluegrass mavericks Ollabelle, Laura Veirs, and Don Chambers, White couches his hypnotic storytelling of self-doubt and salvation in an atmospheric swirl of banjos, slide guitar, and swelling strings. Stylistically, he continues to comfortably veer all over the map, sliding easily from the playful acoustic odes “Town Called Amen” and “Turquoise House” to the wistful affirmation of “Jailbird” (with its heartfelt chorus “I wanna be a jailbird/From the prison of my own damn mind”) to the simmering Southern funk of “Crash Into the Sun.” While White still embarks on dark-cloud ruminations shot through with silver linings of hope, Transnormal Skiperoo offers more warmth and sweetness in its gentle melodies than anything else the songwriter has produced. Tragedy often serves as midwife to great art, but Jim White's latest shows happiness doesn't spell the end of creativity.

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