Jim White - Waffles, Triangles, and Jesus

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:9 Release Date:2017-11-10
Jim White - Waffles, Triangles, and Jesus
Jim White - Waffles, Triangles, and Jesus

Sixty year-old singer-songwriter Jim White has been around for a while and lived a life full of experiences, a Renaissance man during an age when few have even heard of the term. Surfer, model, boxer, cab driver, author, producer, filmmaker, photographer, preacher, and comedian fill out the rest of his resume, one that calls to mind Hemingway in scope and machismo. Along the wandering path of his life, one that started with writing “truly terrible” songs just to pass the time, White mangled his hand in a table saw accident. Forced to put down the guitar for a while, White was adrift, eventually becoming destitute; a homeless man eating out of dumpsters and selling garbage he found for spare change. One day, White strode into NYU and “talked his way” into a scholarship, which, lo and behold, they gave him! Upon graduating near the top of his class, he became deathly ill, and whilst recuperating, he took up the guitar again, and began writing with the ease and clarity of focus he’d lacked before. David Byrne discovered a poorly recorded tape of his songs somewhat coincidentally, and off he went. Jim White could never record another song again, and his story would still be enormously impressive, bordering on unbelievable.

On his latest, brilliantly titled Waffles, Triangles, and Jesus, White serves up a blue plate special of his unique Americana-cum-alt-country songs, and it’s a tasty mix of gentle humor, hope and heartache, like the soundtrack to Grapes of Wrath. Indeed, this album reminds me of the brilliant scoring of O Brother, Where Art Thou? by T Bone Burnett, who used country, gospel, bluegrass, folk, and Appalachian music to recreate Depression-era accompaniment for the film. Incorporating the standard musical breadth of those same forms with precision, White commences things with “Drift Away.” Starting with a haunting whisper, the song blossoms into a lilting banjo-driven melody, and on the follow-up, a violin and whistle melody introduce “Long Long Day.”

White has some moments of levity as well, like the sing-a-long silliness of “Playing Guitar,” or the charming duet with Holly Golightly, wherein White references a character from the old television program The Andy Griffith Show, “Ernest T. Bass at Last Finds the Woman of His Dreams.” White reaches into boomer nostalgia with this one, as it’s unlikely too many people in his audience are aware of the show, let alone a recurring character who was a quaint, loveable rascal hillbilly (who would absolutely love this album, too!). Things culminate in the gorgeous “Sweet Bird of Mystery,” a song that may well bring a tear to your eye, and one that is likely to be heard at future weddings during the father-daughter dance. It’s just beautiful.

This is a delightfully refreshing entry into a timeless musical format, and fans of Americana should enjoy themselves with White’s latest. Bring your own White Lightning and a washboard, and join the hoedown.

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