Country music is possibly the most-hated music genre, but there are definitely some diamonds in the ruff.
Jim White vindicates country by digging deep into the dark aspects of the human condition. His lyrical prowess translates depression, brokeness, and hopelessness in a more refined way than the stuff you might hear on the radio. While the beginning and end of the album are the strongest, the middle is more of a happy spot along a mostly melancholy journey.
From “My Brother’s Keeper” on, the album hits on a bunch of different emotional levels. Sure, there’s the wailing that people associate with country music, but the musicianship is much better than average. Even though his records sell well, Jim White isn’t a part of the commercial music industry, which is for the best; we can listen without wondering if the sentiments are manufactured by corporate interests.
To the End of 2016
After a turbulent year that has caused so many people to lose hope, it helps to listen to something sad. The opening track, “Chase the Dark Away,” is an ode to these creeping, unwanted emotions: “These falling leaves / Might tell a tale / Of harder times to come / But let us not surrender to / Our fears and turn to run”.
Country music started in the South during the 1920s after a bunch of different cultures blended together. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the immigrants from Britain living in the Appalachian mountains mixed with the slaves from Africa, and something cool came into being. The radio was responsible for making country widely-known; it evolved into different genres as its listenership grew, spawning and combining with rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, and Americana.
There’s commercial country, and then there’s outlaw country. The latter is full of classic life situations, like breakups, displacement, loneliness, and addiction. If you like Jim White, you’ll love Joe Henry, Porter Wagoner, Johnny Dowd, and Smog.