Music Review: Jim Mize, Jim Mize

Published on July 18th, 2014 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Melissa Bratcher

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You can call Jim Mize a lot of things: eccentric, a hopeless romantic, and a visionary. You can also call him a great storyteller in the fine Southern tradition of raconteurs. On his latest release, the self-titled Jim Mize, he makes snapshots through well-placed words and his singular guitar work. The album feels rooted in the South in music and lyrics, though there’s not much that explicitly states it. But the South gets in, like kudzu, and Mize is an Arkansas native. It’s in the water. Or the air. Or possibly the dirt.

Jim Mize is a backroads record. There’s the heady swoon of new love on “Rabbit Hole,” with Mize’s raw, proselytizing vocals and the start/stop rhythm guitar. On the country-blues “I Won’t Come Back Again,” a photo about a fellow “liftin’ spirits at the end of the bar,” there’s delightful organ work from Al Gamble. Another Kodachrome: “She serves drinks and he parks cars” and “she’s beautiful against the summer sky,” a moment in time played out against chiming acoustic guitar and staccato solo electric guitar, in the cleverly titled “Drunk Moon Falling.” You know exactly what that is when you hear it (though it’s probably different things to different people).

Mize is joined by Kate Taylor on vocals on the dreamy love song, “This Moment With You.” This introspective song swells into a low key rocker about the giddy moments of love and on it, Taylor and Mize blend well together; her sweetness with his gruffness. It would be the perfect song for a David Lynch soundtrack.

Fellow Fat Possum label mate Jimbo Mathus adds his guitar to “Bleed,” a reverby song about a pair who cut each other to shreds with words that can’t be taken back. On this slow groove, Mize’s voice is reminiscent of Springsteen’s: husky, open, but with a bit of a twang. Mathus also plays piano and guitar on “Empty Rooms,” the devastating gut punch of a closing song. A muted reflection of life lived in a small town in the south—a house with crayon drawings on the walls—it is haunting.

Is there a certain chord that makes the waterworks begin? That perfect note that conveys sadness and longing and hope? If there is, Mize hits it on “Eminence Kentucky.” His vocals are perfectly weathered, the guitar sublimely swoony, and the song itself gorgeous and yearning.

If “Need Me Some Jesus” were a movie, Jim Beaver would play the main character. Memphis-based John Paul Keith supplies commendable guitar paired with Jim Mize’s hoarse shouts on the gritty rocker.

Jim Mize is an evocative, hypnotic record. It’s full of original guitar work, and clever, sparse storytelling. In his songwriting Jim Mize has the kind of voice that one only obtains by living an interesting, well-observed life. Jim Mize is a fully realized, swampy gem that deserves your ear.

Jim Mize was released by Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum Records on June 24.

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