There are moments when Mr. White’s hazy backroads vignettes play like David Lynch — as on the sly cut, “The Wound That Never Heals.” In these moments, his narratives and mixological cocktail of country, noir, rock and sound collage hit the bone. But then there’s a nearly equal number of times when he dallies overly long in either Jon Spencer faux-carpetbagger-blues territory or oft-traveled Tom Waits-ian creepy backwater, hard-livin’, narrative put-ons. This is the frustrating Jim White contradiction — partly truth and partly fiction? He’s one half naif-genuine American music storyteller and one half NPR feature story waiting to happen.
He strikes a helluvan atmosphere, mixing plunky banjo with left-field stereoscopic sound effects that are Suwanee River and rickety Iowa barn at 2 a.m. He also has an incredible knack for an infectious chorus. His voice is deceptively sweet. (And come to think of it, don’t you have to be 50 years old and a recovering alcoholic/drug addict/other story-pitch-worthy psychic casualty to tell spooky Americana tales?) Had David Lynch held off on releasing Wild at Heart for a dozen years, White might’ve bumped poor old Chris Isaak off the sound track. (White is, after all, a former European fashion model.) Anyhoo.
But for all his storytelling moves and trailer-park signifying, No Such Place is, ultimately, infectiously ephemeral. But maybe that’s just the point.
E-mail Chris Handyside at [email protected].