Polymaths are a dime-a-dozen on today’s pop scene, but Jim White has a topical edge owing to his Pentecostal upbringing. Having veered into a music career after stints as a pro surfer and fashion model, White was almost 40 when David Byrne signed him to his Luaka Bop label. Byrne, who is famously partial to offbeat types, was attracted to White’s peculiar take on evangelical spiritualism.
Though gospel is the foundation, the pillars of White’s sound are Southern gothic rock and trip-hop, and when the results aren’t inspirational they can be downright weird. “Would he drive pedal to the metal or real slow,” the native Floridian wonders in a near-whisper on “If Jesus Drove a Motor Home.” Though it sounds like a typical redneck notion, the song’s processed drums, funky rhythms and eerie backing vocals that seem to float out of the bathtub drain put it in that part of town where good ol’ boys fear to tread.
Even in love, White keeps the Lord’s counsel more as an accomplice than as a savior. “I’d be willing to become the religious fool you want me to be,” he tells Him, “if in return you tell that girl I’m the man we both know I ain’t.”
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