Jim White- Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See (Luaka Bop)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Static On The Radio
2. Bluebird
3. Combing My Hair In A Brand New Style
4. That Girl From Brownsville Texas
5. Borrowed Wings
6. If Jesus Drove A Motor Home
7. Objects In Motion
8. Buzzards Of Love
9. Alabama Chrome
10. Phone Booth In Heaven
11. (hidden track)



On his third release, Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See, singer/songwriter Jim White seamlessly mixes folk, country, alternative and jazz into a collection of highly enjoyable songs.

The opener, “Static On The Radio,” is a hypnotic, jazzy number that features guest vocals by Aimee Mann. The duo’s vocals work extremely well together and the music, which is very subdued and includes various sound effects and a great trumpet solo, is as superb as it is understated.

And that’s the great skill of White – despite guest musicians like Mann, the Barenaked Ladies and Bill Frisell; and despite the fact White plays over 10 vastly different instruments himself, even including banjo and trombone, the disc is remarkably low key. 

But even though Drill A Hole… isn’t at all flashy, White manages to write tracks that manage to suck the listener into a trance. “Combing My Hair In A Brand New Style” features another fine trumpet part with even more hypnotic touches, from White’s effected vocals to the sultry backing vocals to the understated percussion.

“That Girl From Brownsville Texas” sees White singing to God in the hopes that he’ll get some help planting “them seeds of love with that girl from Brownsville, Texas.” Accompanied by acoustic and pedal steel guitars, percussion and weird keyboards, White closes the song by making a deal with God, “Lord I might finally be willing to become the religious fool you always wanted me to be, if in return we could just tell that girl I’m the man you and me both know that I ain’t.” As White even drops his own name in this song, it’s hard not to look at it as quite a personal number.

White starts the bizarre “If Jesus Drove A Motor Home,” wondering how Jesus would drive his Winnebago as he listens to “Bob Dylan and motivational tapes.” The tune includes some flute and trumpet as well as electric piano and upright bass to give it its 70’s jazzy feel.

White even delves into an epic excursion like the 7-minute “Buzzards Of Love,” a song that features a great brass section as well as a haunting mellotron bit. Freeform trumpet blazes over a subdued percussion part and Rhodes piano to act as an instrumental playout.

The disc closes, or so it seems, with “Phone Booth In Heaven.” Opening with a minute of soothing sound effects, gentle acoustic guitar takes over as White sings another soul-bearing number, “There’s some say that heaven can’t exist without hell/Well if the proof’s in the pudding and that axiom’s true/Somehow the heart of the matter escaped me and you/For those who plant nothing but the seeds of the falling/There is a phone booth in heaven that no one is calling.” Be sure not to turn off you CD player after this track concludes, as a hidden surprise follows.

I highly recommend this disc. It may take a few listens to get into, but once it puts you under its spell, it won’t let go.

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