It is often the case that the best art is born out of adversity, and that is certainly a maxim that can be applied to ‘Where It Hits You’ - the fifth album from US singer-songwriter Jim White. During the difficult gestation period, White first cut ties with his long-term record label Luaka Bop and, even more discomforting and distressing, his wife left him for another man halfway through recording. It is these twin feelings of upheaval and desolation that characterise a record that is rich in expertly crafted songs with a truly affecting emotional core.
Despite the personal and emotional distress affecting the creation, it is clear that ‘Where It Hits You’ provided White with an opportunity for some cathartic redemption and his languid and understated country-folk sound is perfectly suited to these intimate and deeply personal songs. ‘Chase The Dark Away’ is a suitably dreamy opener and a lovely piece of lilting Americana. The album’s dark undercurrent is immediately referenced in the lyrics that include lines like “Graveyards of lost loved ones / Just watch them drift away.” This feeling of sadness is emphasised further in ‘Sundays Refrain’ as the now 54-year-old White gently laments in his worn homespun voice “I got nothing to be / Saturdays rain falling down on me.’
‘Where it Hits You’ is certainly far from a morose and maudlin break up record and there is indeed a redemptive tone that frequently comes to the fore. Indeed, the album’s middle section is jaunty and upbeat, full of gently rocking melodic country folk that shows off White’s playful side full of lyrical wit and engaging storytelling, particularly on the freewheeling and rousing rocking chug of ‘Here We Go’.
If there’s one criticism, it’s length: nine of the album’s 11 tracks are over five minutes long, and at times the songs’ languid nature can allow your attention to drift. The last three tracks, however, deserve full attention as these see White truly bearing his soul. ‘That Wintered Blue Sky’ is dark, funereal and full of portent with White singing that “Nobody ever got nowhere alone.” It is all achingly sad stuff, but at the same time there is something strangely uplifting as well - a mark of White’s skill as a songwriter. ‘Epilogue To A Marriage’ is rather self-explanatory in its title, and perhaps the most accomplished moment here. A lovely country shuffle featuring the album’s best line as White reflects that ‘Even on the best of days, still there’s hell to pay.’
Jim White has gained huge critical acclaim throughout his career, particularly for his first two LPs ‘Wrong Eyed Jesus’ and ‘No Such Place’, but ‘Where It Hits You’ certainly deserves to be placed alongside those albums, especially considering the circumstances in which it was created. An excellent collection of soul-bearing Americana.