A dark and surreal outing for Southern Gothic sage Jim White as Mama Lucky, his long-neglected 2009 collaboration with Tucker Martine.
Joined by a handful of friends in the studio, including singer Linda Delgado, Floridian singer-songwriter Jim White and producer-engineer Tucker Martine created Mama Lucky, a side project of truly weird americana in 2009 that was never released. The aim was to use up some of the songs White had in various stages on completion that didn’t sound like his usual work.
Maybe that’s the problem with this album and why it was not embraced by White’s label at the time. It often sounds more like what one would expect from, say, a Sufjan Stevens album, another artist Martine has produced, than a Jim White one. However, the bleak closing song ‘Why Oh Why’ does come off as an outtake from an early White release, very much in the vein of ‘Stabbed Me In The Heart.’
Texas-born blues singer Linda Delgado sings most of the songs rather than White. She has also performed occasionally as “Mama Lucky” elsewhere. Delgado has a hearty, expansive, sensual, roadhouse blues style, and the tracks on ‘Permanent Stranger’ are none of these things. The eerie opening track, for example, ‘The Monster Song,’ is melancholy and cinematic – “that monster is a friend of mine” – with the potential to be a twist on classic torch songs. Instead, it sounds like the Garth and Kat skits on ‘SNL’ where Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen improvise lyrics on the fly.
‘Something Is Out There’ and ‘Driving In Texas’ fare better with a Southern Gothic/Tom Waits feel. ‘Something Is Out There’ weaves what could be incidental music for a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode with experimental sounds and tip-toeing jazz bass lines. ‘Mighty Mountain’ is an energetic gospel song with authentic-sounding backing vocals and Pentecostal exhortations, which were prevalent in White’s religious upbringing. On the trippy, cosmic, ego-dissolving ‘No One Is Who I Am,’ which hearkens back to White’s classic ‘Jailbird,’ Delgado sings, “They lay their dreams inside spaceships that they call prayers.”
‘Where Would I Be’ is the highlight on the album and the one song that really suits Delgado, a Beck-like rocker that mentions Boxcar Willie, a laughing Buddha from Cleveland, and Anaïs Nin.
If anyone is expecting the whimsy of White’s ‘Turquoise Heart,’ or humour of ‘Handcuffed To A Fence In Mississippi,’ it’s not here. While not at all representative of his work, ‘Permanent Stranger’ has value as a curiosity for fans, a pit stop on his songwriting evolution.