ROBOTS & ELECTRONIC BRAINS

Jim White @ Corn Exchange, Cambridge

"So do you have High School Proms here in England?" he askes the sparsely-populated hall. A muffled, half-embarrassed, very English, "err, no" is the respsonse. "Then we got nothing to talk about...Jesus, it's going to be hard when we get to France".

He is Jim White: a beanpole, ten-gallon hat-wearing troubadour. A purveyor of dilapidated country/folk songs played out on lap-steel guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica and narrated in a Waitsian fashion. The set is peppered with asides and short, rambling stories like the time, as a NYC cab driver, he was held up at gunpoint and told to drive to the nearest quiche store. As David Byrne's audience file into the venue, they are transfixed. "A perfect day to chase tornadoes", highlight of last year's Luaka Bop album, is de-vamped and delivered at funereal pace. Other album tracks receive a similar going-over as the fragile picked melodies and fragmentary rhythms evoke Bible-belt towns and the skeletons that hide in the closets there.


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