In an interview with VPRO, Jim White said "there's an order beneath reality that is beautiful and elaborate" but in the world we live in now disorder and ugliness are prevalent. His latest album is about this. Perhaps it's true to say all White's records have been about this.
I've been a fan of White since I first heard his chilling, pitch-black tale of a female serial killer, 'The Wound That Never Heals' from his second album 'No Such Place'. This confirmed his status as an all-Americana hero which had already been established by his 1997 debut 'Wrong-Eyed Jesus'.
Later still, a BBC documentary narrated by White, exploring the Southern Gothic roots to these records ('In Search of the Wrong-Eyed Jesus') made it clear why David Byrne was also an early convert to his distinctive music.
Fast forward two decades and it's good report that, with his 8th studio album, and now in his 60s, White hasn't exhausted his supply of twisted yarns of hellfire preachers, drifters and various other misfits . In the closing track, The Divided States Of America, he also takes a swipe at how the "core of decency" is disappearing in the USA.
Jim White was born in Florida but is currently based in rural Georgia. However, this album was recorded primarily at Studio Caporal in Antwerp, Belgium. On it, he is joined by his longtime drummer Marlon Patton and local Belgian musicians Geert Hellings (guitar/banjo) and Nicolas Rombouts (electric & stand-up bass/keys). This modest line-up ensures that the songs are played with a no-frills directness of sophisticated pub-rockers.
In keeping with his previous releases, 'Misfit’s Jubilee' is a celebration of the outsiders' point of view. The implicit message is that those who dwell on the fringes of conventional society have the greatest insights into where things are going astray. As he sings on Wonders Never Cease, "We got our outcast destiny, we fell the bright light of knowing."
White muses on the mysteries of life, nameless ghosts, the transience of being and the lost-ness of the highway. In all this, he never gives the impression of being unduly disheartened by the fact that humanity seems hell-bent to remain on the road to nowhere with no turn-offs in sight. In My Life’s A Stolen Picture, he cheerily declares "My life's a schizophrenic version of a psychedelic vision, hey-hey!"
Nevertheless, for all the self-deprecating humor, at its core the album is a rage-fuelled indictment of an American society that has lost a sense of direction. Beauty and love are in short supply. As White says, “us freaks, we gotta take up musical arms and start speaking truth to power here. If we don’t, who exactly will?”