by Linda Ray
Singer-songwriter Jim White is just twisted and other-worldly enough to have attracted the interest of Talking Heads fulcrum David Byrne. At the time, in the mid-90s, Byrne's Luaka Bop stable comprised indigenous Brazilians almost exclusively. While that provides a sense of Byrne's captivation, it's of no use at all in characterizing White's sound.
His full-length debut in 1997, (Mysterious Tale of How I Shouted) Wrong Eyed Jesus revealed White as a personification of the Southern Gothic aesthetic, a brave explorer of the murky goo that makes its home where certainty, righteousness and an annoyingly bright light might reside in other minds.
It would be four years before he released another album, but in the interim he journeyed through his music's context for an indepentent film, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, which screens at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Exploded View, 197 E. Toole Ave. The film is the first in a four-part documentary series, Extreme Southern Culture, curated by DJ and music-encyclopedia Carl Hanni.
From the Exploded View website:
Searching For the Wrong Eyed Jesus, Andrew Douglas’ deeply evocative 2003 film follows the idiosyncratic Americana musician Jim White ... on a fantastical journey through the American south. White muses on religion and culture and plays some music while making memorable stops in a Pentecostal church, a prison, a coalmine, local bars, cafes and much more.
Along the way, he consorts with like-minded musicians, including The Handsome Family, a husband-wife duo plying the dark bits in fairy tales, nursery rhymes and country music, but very much in love with birds, deer and sand dunes. Although they inspired a generation of Chicago musicians whose names you would recognize, they will be best remembered as T-Bone Burnett's choice to provide the opening song for the new HBO series, True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Among other fellow travelers are Johnny Dowd, whose blood-stained guitar explored the spooky woods, murderous love triangles and sundered hearts of New England, and 16 Horsepower, whose David Eugene Edwards seemed to speak in tongues and perhaps summon snakes with his haunting antique bandonion and delirious-evangelical lyricism.
Here's what David Byrne has to say about the film:
"An amazing piece of work. The film essentiallly follows one man, Jim White, as he deals with both his own and the South's demons ...and in the process we are given a musical tour of another planet. Beautiful, dark and weird stuff."
Those who put stock in such things will also want to know that Rotten Tomatoes gives it 4.5 stars.