Little wonder that a middle-aged cat whose resume includes past and/or present stints as a Pentecostal, New York cabbie, fashion model, professional surfer, fine art photographer, and indie filmmaker would have a rather unique perspective on life. But what's truly impressive is Renaissance man Jim White's uncanny ability to express his intriguing sensibility in a manner that's at once functional and weirder than a one-eyed dog.
Like always, the Bible belt-born and -based aural collagist weighs in with primitive poetic panache on matters of sin, salvation and other burdens of the cross. In contrast to past efforts, though, Transnormal Skiperoo, as its title obliquely implies, breathes an aura of worthwhile compromise accepted, turmoil transcended, and thorny contradictions taken in stride. A hardworkin' creative spirit can only take a whip to his own backside for so long. And though he's far too tuned in to life's gnawing absurdities to ever attain Prozac poster boy status, the married father of two can spin off lines like "In love we find out who we are / In sorrow we abide / Our strength's revealed / By what we build / From the broken things inside" and make domestic contentment sound like a damn fine deal.
Probably best pegged for the uninitiated as a one-of-a-kind, alt-country eccentric, White fits poorly into any pigeonhole. If "A Town Called Amen" and "Turquoise House" charm with quirkified, John Prine-style bounce, several other cuts spike the menu big-time. "Jailbird" glides and hovers through hushed, ethereal air space, while "Crash Into the Sun" heaves and honks like Beck at his raunchy, cut-and-paste best, and "Fruit of the Vine" turns up the Deep Southern humidity at a slow, bluesy boil.
In any musical mode, Jim White peels away the layers to reveal something that sounds suspiciously like truth. Not the last word, necessarily, but thoroughly researched and reported in full. Funny how the strange outsider with flame shooting out of his eye sockets can see what many of us could only dream. • Mike Thomas