If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jim White in a live setting – whether with big, full band arrangements in big, seated, venues or in small, dark clubs touring by himself, you know that each show is unique and special. For those of you who are fans of his recorded output but have never seen him live, the new A Funny Little Cross to Bear live EP provides a glimpse of what the experience is like.
Two essential reasons to see Jim White live are captured beautifully on this six song EP. First is his tendency to re-work songs in a live setting. This is a combination of Jim’s wanderlust with his music and the necessity of altering songs to work with his, at times, limited instrumentation. Depending on the night this could range from a three piece, to just Jim onstage solo with a drum machine. “Counting Numbers,” originally from Transnormal Skiperoo, gets re-worked in a much more upbeat way – speeding up the tempo and turning the chorus’ maudlin worries of distraction into something much lighter and wistful. Conversely “Alabama Chrome,” from Drill a Hole in that Substrate.. gets the opposite treatment. The original’s chorus made the song title’s culture-deprecating joke into something bordering on silly, despite the song’s dark undercurrents. Here the song is reworked into the Southern Gothic lament that its lyrics always foretold and the chorus’s joke becomes a sorrowful reflection of the poverty of the environment in which the tune is rooted.
The second reason to see White live is his tremendous knack for banter and telling stories. Here this is limited to the end of the first song and a track on its own at the end (where he tells a story about a late-night phone call), but both give you an idea of the warmth and great humor that runs throughout his performances. The inclusion of these bits on the EP is essential, as they are truly an important part of getting a sense of his live shows. Also included are two unreleased songs – the traditional sounding “Jim 3:16” and the Transnormal Skiperoo outtake “Stranger Candy.” The latter, which opens the EP, is lyrically one of White’s finest moments – a haunting and mesmerizing song that rivals the best of his work and fits in perfectly with the tone of the recordings.
While an obvious pick-up for existing fans of White, A Funny Little Cross to Bear also serves as a great introduction for curious non-fans as well. The stripped back recordings give more room for White’s lyrics, always one of his most appealing aspects as an artist, and make it easier to get inside his world and live within the words. j. neas
MP3: Jim White :: Alabama Chrome
Amazon: Jim White – A Funny Little Cross to Bear