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Monday, 11 June 2012

Jim White at The Lowry, Salford: Local Girl Now Transformed into Hard-Drinking American Broad

Now, in my (almost) five years of writing this blog, I have discovered it to have two key advantages. Firstly, it is an excellent displacement activity for all kinds of undesirable tasks such as housework, exercise, doctoral work etc; indeed, if ANYONE approaches you with a request for which you care little, all you need to do is furrow your brow, peer intellectually at the screen of the laptop, mime furiously efficient typing movements and hiss "I'm WORKING" and the chances are that person will respectfully back off. Secondly - and some might say more importantly - writing a blog encourages you to try things you might not otherwise have considered, or known about; take my recent conversion to whisky, for example, at the behest of the charmingly persuasive Liquorists, documented in all its hazy debauchery here.

And it's entirely in keeping with my new persona as a glamorously down-at-heel whisky drinker (it's important here that you picture me sitting alone somewhere, late at night, with a sad yet worldy-wise expression on my face, drinking whisky and smoking a cigarette in the manner of Marlene Dietrich or similar, rather than the actuality of me slurping tea in my pyjamas and watching the football highlights) that I have also broadened my musical horizons. For on Sunday night I was invited to review the Jim White gig in the intimate Quays Theatre at The Lowry; I'd never heard of him before, but a quick listen to a few of his songs on You Tube convinced me that this talented singer-songwriter from the deep south of America would be the perfect accompaniment to my new incarnation as wronged yet exquisite late night whisky drinker.

Obviously, you can listen to his songs yourself - and indeed you should. The current album, Where it Hits You, is a fabulously beautiful record - wistful and emotional, it's best listened to in a mildly somnolent state where you simply let the sound wash over you (but more of this later): my favourite tracks are the first two - Chase the Dark Away, which you can listen to here, and Sunday's Refrain, which I will hum for you if you give me a call when I'm not busy. What's harder to put into words, though, is just how entertainingly odd a Jim White gig turns out to be. First of all, the support act - the Belgian twosome Stanton - are also his band; he produced their new album, so they all sang some - excellent - songs from this debut for 25 minutes before trooping off for half an hour (presumably to allow the audience to sneak in a bonus gin and tonic). Then they were back, this time with Jim centre-stage, for an hour and a half of singing and what can only be described as story-telling - If Jesus Drove a Motorhome is preceded by a very funny story about Jesus impersonators in his own hometown, and the irritatingly catchy Newspaper is put movingly into context with a tale of illness, near-death and redemption through criminals with amusing names. He promises that we will be able to read all these stories and more in his forthcoming book - if he ever gets round to finishing it.

The new album has received almost whole-heartedly postitive reviews since its release - Uncut awarded it "Americana Album of the Month", whilst The Independent on Sunday rightly commented "there's always room for the real thing, and you'll know it when it hits you" - but it really comes into its own once you've seen Jim White live and can feel the personality behind the songs. If I got the opportunity to go again, I would - particularly as, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend Sunday's gig in quite the persona I would have liked. Was I lolling in my seat, drunk on hard liquor and tired from one too many doomed love affairs and perhaps some late nights reading the latest Don DeLillo? Nope - I was lolling in my seat, drunk on the equally heady combination of a gin and tonic, some heavy duty cold and flu meds and a head full of snot; still, I'm hoping that the overall effect to any interested onlookers was pretty much the same...

- you can hear more tales from the South on Jim White's MySpace page; please insert your own nose-blowing sound effects where required.

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