Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band: Take It Like a Man

Following the conceit of the “versus” listed in the artists’ category (“Jim White vs. Packway Handle Band”) title, on Take It Like a Man, White and the band alternately offer songs with just one co-written between them.

Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band

Take It Like a Man

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2015-01-27
UK Release Date: 2015-01-26

Jim White is an eccentric American singer songwriter/guitarist known for his screwball lyrics and delivery. He’s not a nut, but he certainly can be odd in a way that reflects intelligence, humor, gospel traditions, and the lost underground nation from previous decades -- and maybe even previous lives. The Packway Handle Band is a bluegrass group from Georgia known for their tight harmonies and spirited performances. This band asked White to produce their new record. He decided to make it a collaboration.

Following the conceit of the “versus” listed in the artists’ category (“Jim White vs. the Packway Handle Band”) title, on Take it Like a Man White and the band alternately offer songs with just one co-written between them (“Corn Pone Refugee”). It’s not always easy to know who wrote which songs here, but it really doesn’t matter. They all share the same exuberant vitality, strangeness, and imaginative look at life, God, the weather, and other people.

White doesn’t hail from a bluegrass heritage, but his Gothic material fits smack dab in the middle of this bastard tradition. This can be easily seen in his spiritual rant “Jim 3:16”, where White declares “a bar is just a church where they serve beer”. He means it. A bar is a place of honest human communion and communication. Packway’s counterpart tune “Gravity Won’t Fail” offers a similar belief in the secular: “Always bet on the universe / And you’ll never get let down." While what comprises the universe is never delineated or defined, it’s clearly not a religious entity.

Of course, most of the songs by these artists are fun and silly more often than serious. The instrumental back-up reveals the Packways can really pick and create a fast-fast tempo as only bluegrass or techno can. The music can get purposely sloppy to convey the irreverence of the participants to conventionality. That’s even true of morbidly named “Blood on the Fiddle, Blood on the Bow”. This ain’t no bluegrass “Helter Skelter” -- re: “I’ve got blisters on my fingers” -- but a more hyperbolic plea asking for attention. The music can be off-key and distorted to show it comes from the heart unprocessed, but it’s a heart more concerned with showing off than connecting with others.

As the one co-written track suggests, the music and lyrics here may be serious but then again they may not. This is playful entertainment. So on “Corn Pone Refugee”, the playing goes from that of a straight-ahead diesel-fueled engine to an old freight train wobbling down the tracks. The vocals begin with clean harmonies and turn into less disciplined shouting. The sensible words deteriorate into less rational verbiage. But the participants keep a deadpan expression as if they are not aware of the changes.

The lyrics to “Paranormal Girl”, describe “funny feelings”. This seems to be a good way of relating what the album mostly conveys: a smile and a vague sense of something disturbing. While the individual cut concerns a more supernatural topic, the idea of “funny feelings” serves as a good metaphor for Take It Like a Man's contents. Something funny is going on in the universe, and no one is ever really sure why.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.