Thursday, Nov. 10 It came as no surprise to anyone who knows Jim White's music that he turned out to be quite a raconteur at his show at Club Congress on Nov. 10. He came out talking and spent as much time doing that as he did playing music--and those who were there were better off for it.

After a short opening set of down-tempo country songs by long and tall Tucson crooner Hank Topless of Topless Opry--considerably fleshed out by the sultry gyrations of a vixen in garters, a cowboy hat and not much more--White took the stage in front of a highly partisan audience. Immediately endearing himself to the crowd by announcing that he was "happy to be in such a freaky town," White proceeded to charm the audience with a collection of outrageous anecdotal stories and mesmerizing story-songs. White's CDs (released on David Byrnes' Luaka Bop label) are crammed full of tales--tall, short and upside-down--of a uniquely American slant. A Southerner by birth from Pensacola, Fla., White's songs are full of deep moral, spiritual and physical struggles. Trials and tribulations, sin and salvation, transcendence, depravity and darkly comic all-American surrealism are filtered through the hothouse atmosphere of the rural South. If William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor has a musical heir, it's Jim White.

All of which makes his performance simultaneously fun, spooky and moving. Accompanying himself on various guitars, a keyboard, a drum machine, melodica and effects, he looped his voice and guitar through a digital delay that allowed him to play along with and harmonize with himself. He pulled songs from all his records, including the lovely "Bluebird" (dedicated to his daughter), a haunting "A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes" and hypnotic "Still Waters." He cranked up the volume for "Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi" and "If Jesus Drove a Motor Home," and confessed to having "romantic Tourette's syndrome" before "That Girl From Brownsville Texas." And he spun hilarious tales, indulged in freestyle wordplay and jived along with a vocal crowd, riffing on everything from KC and the Sunshine Band and Hieronymus Bosch to trailer park etiquette and a golf cart full of machetes. He announced that "The monitors are talking to me--they're saying kill." Someone in the crowd did the Worm; he sold thrift store shirts and hats, and he made about 100 friends. And it was priceless.

Carl Hanni

susan san Giovanni

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