Photo: Connie Garton
Outlaw country singer-songwriter Jim Mitchell unveils his fourth album, entitled Repeat Offender, via Mother West. Autobiographical in nature, Repeat Offender defiantly rejects the contemporary trend of sanitized country pop.
Mitchell explains, “I’m tryin’ to be the yin to that yang. I want to remain who I am, which is something based in tradition. I know what country music is – I’m schooled in it.”
The son of a mercurial itinerant musician, Mitchell honed his talents in hardscrabble “hobo jungles” literally on the wrong side of the tracks. Just as his dad survived on charming strangers with song, Mitchell too found himself playing for drifters and outliers whenever his pop passed through town.
“Dad was kinda like a 1960s and ‘70s Woody Guthrie, without the politics,” Mitchell recalls. “By 12 years old I was allowed to drink and smoke, and he would share his pain pills with me while I’d entertain the folks in his camp.”
Encompassing 10 tracks, Repeat Offender begins with “Why You Rockin’ On Me,” traveling on luscious, grimy guitars as Mitchell’s vocals express his desire to be left alone in a world seemingly gone crazy.
Mitchell explains, “There’s a lot of anger in the world … everybody’s screamin’! I just picked up on that theme of being around a bunch of angry people.”
Entry points include “No Part of Nothing,” which opens on sparkling, twangy tones, followed by Mitchell’s low tenor and a delicious female voice. A syrupy steel guitar gives the solo section withering surfaces.
Talking about the song, Mitchell says, “I wrote this song around the phrase ‘no part of nothing’ which I would hear from friends when describing someone’s music that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre box. I took that phrase and turned it into a dysfunctional relationship.”
“Don’t Come Crying to Me” rolls out on an undulating melody dripping with drawling guitars and radiant vocal harmonies. Reminiscent of George Strait covering Merle Haggard, there’s a tasty melodicism to Mitchell’s voice.
A personal favorite, “Hillbilly (with a RnR Heart)” is a country rocker riding a pushing rhythm topped by gleaming guitars leading to a dazzling guitar solo juxtaposing luminous colors against darker tones. This song rocks!
Featuring dirty, growling guitars, “Hell Or High Water” merges sleazy blues flavors with pure, outlaw country savors, resulting in a raw tune, shivering with muddy energy.
Mitchell says, “Hell Or High Water” “is a song about how your life can change at the drop of a hat with one bad decision. Or maybe just bad luck.”
Avoiding any semblance of bro-country or country pop, with Repeat Offender, Jim Mitchell delivers down-and-dirty country music. This is a grand album.