It was pleasing to see a near capacity crowd turn up on a wet and cold Sunday night in Glasgow to see Jim White. Often seen as a cult artist and with an idiosyncratic style that rarely bothers the airwaves, White is a bit of a polymath. Aside from his songs he has worked in books, art and film while he had a well noted list of occupations before making his music debut at a relatively late age with (The Mysterious Tale Of How I Shouted) Wrong Eye Jesus. Tonight’s show saw him backed by Cicada Rhythm, a Georgia two piece, and drummer, Colin Agnew, also from Georgia, who were just about the perfect accompanists for his richly textured songs.
With a new album (Waffles, Triangles & Jesus) just released, White opened the show with the country hokum of Playing Guitars, a pleasant introduction to his somewhat off kilter view of the world, a world splendidly described in the following Plywood Superman. Two songs in and it was clear that the trio were completely simpatico with White with the latter song given a superb dreamlike quality. Guitarist Dave Kirslis, double bass player, Andrea DeMarcus and Agnew crafted some extremely wonderful backdrops for the songs with Agnew’s percussion especially impressive.
The first of White’s lengthy monologues occurred after the second song as he spoke of past escapades as a New York taxi driver. Many of the songs thereafter were prefaced so with perhaps the best recounting his attracting the ire of the six and a half foot tall rockabilly singer, Sleepy LaBeef when White was mistakenly booked to play a Christian Festival (stick Jesus on a album title and see where it gets you) and sang God was Drunk When He Made Me. His dry and peevish humour at times threw some light onto the following song (hooking up with Johnny Dowd for Hellwood before singing A Man Loves His Wife), elsewhere, they were just another glimpse into his sometimes fractured past.
There were some mesmerising moments, Ghost Town Of My Brain and Static On The Radio standing out along with Jailbird but new songs such as Drift Away and Far Beyond The Spoken World showed that White can still conjure up a gothic weird Americana as splendidly as he did on his debut album. While the likes of Silver Threads was more upbeat and Earnest T Bass Finds The Woman Of His Dreams was a slight return to the old country feel of the opening song it was White’s delicate ramblings through his hinterlands that provided most of the sustenance of the night.
Explaining he doesn’t do encores, the band departed leaving White to perform solo at the end with the metaphysical House Of The Unknown before ending with a song to his daughter, Sweet Bird Of Mystery. Alone on stage he was just as captivating as with the band.
A brief footnote: Each night on this tour White is auctioning the shirt off his back. A long running aspect of his shows, he buys thrift store shirts, wears them for a performance and then sells them with the proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. Tonight his Ely Western shirt went for £50. A nice touch.