Jim White & Clive Barnes @ Whelan’s Dublin - Sun 26th Aug 2018

An artist that can truly be defined as one of a kind. Jim White has a portfolio of six solo records and a number of collaborations since he first appeared on the radar back in the 1990’s. His wealth of life experience is drawn from stints as a professional surfer, comedian, fashion model, cab driver, boxer, preacher and any variety of other jobs such as dishwasher, landscaper, lifeguard, cook, road builder.

Somewhere along the line, he developed as a self-taught musician and has gone on to produce records and had his songs feature in such TV shows, such as Breaking Bad and Rectify. He also exhibits in art galleries and museums across the US and Europe and writes fiction.

As a singer-songwriter, his observational tales are drawn from real life experiences, insights on the human condition, ruminations on the propensity of mankind for self sabotage and a whole bag of other flights of fancy that find their way into his idiosyncratic view of our attempts to make sense of life on this mortal coil.

His live shows are as much spoken word as they are about the music, with the stories behind each song coloured by his wonderfully incisive wit and penchant for the bizarre in the details of each experience. His life has been lived on the edge and this is reflected in his championing of those fated to live on the margins of society. Ironically, we are left with the inescapable truth that the real bums, thieves and villains are living within the social norms of society and responsible for building up the very walls that keep the disenfranchised and fragile souls on the outside. 

His generosity of spirit is shown in the simple fact that he auctions his performance shirt each night at the shows and gives the proceeds to the ‘doctors without borders’ charity. Tonight, his fine blue shirt made €80 as a member of the audience won the stage-side auction after the gig.

The set list is taken from all his releases with five of the songs featured on the latest release from 2017, Waffles, Triangles & Jesus. The other releases get a few songs each and there are two tracks included that he has yet to record. The topics cover his daughter (Bluebird, Sweet Bird Of Mystery), death/murder (A Perfect Day To Chase Tornados, Objects In The Water, The Wound That Never Heals), gimmick songs (Playing Guitars), lives on the edge (A Felony Report Song, Handcuffed To A Fence In Mississippi), relationships (Epilogue To A Marriage), survival (Here I Am, Chase The Dark Away, Prisoner’s Dilemma) and just being alive in the present (Silver Threads, Wonders Never Cease). These are moments of treasured insight, reflection and just great fun. 

Clive Barnes supports on acoustic and electric guitars and performs to his usual high standard of interpreting the songs and embellishing them with a sensitive and restrained dynamic in his delivery. Clive also sings a song of his own, Down To The Crossroads, with Jim sitting in on harmonica, which he plays on a number of other songs to great atmospheric effect in a ‘less is more’ way.    

Jim describes himself as a Pantheist and whatever about trying to identify God in nature, Jim states that writing songs is like therapy for him and that they should reflect who you are. If a great record results from this process then that is a bonus along the way, but it should not be the reason for writing. This was a warm, wonderful evening of songs born from a unique talent and vision. Intimate setting and inspiring to witness it all.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee