Trail Mix: Jim White vs The Packway Handle Band

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Jim White vs The Packway Handle Band.

Take It Like A Man, the new record from Jim White and Packway Handle Band that releases today, is a sonic marriage most curious. At first glance, White, a modern Renaissance man and eclectic musician, and Packway Handle Band, one of Georgia’s best nouveau old time groups, are an odd pairing. Having listened to both for a long time, I didn’t know where, or how, their disparate sounds would blend.

My misgivings proved to be unfounded. By the end of my first listen to Take It Like A Man, it was hard to tell where Jim White ended and Packway Handle Band began.

I recently caught up with Tom Baker, banjo player for Packway Handle Band, to chat about the new record. Also, this week’s blog includes the premier of a brand new tune from the record, “Smack Dab In A Big Tornado,” which you will find linked below, and a ticket giveaway to one of the band’s upcoming shows with Jim White.

BRO – How did you guys fall in with Jim White?

TB – We actually first encountered Jim’s music at Burning Man in 2006ish. We played several acoustic shows there for a group of wonderful, degenerate Texans who called themselves The Damn Fucking Texans. There was a really interesting DJ at that camp who played us several of Jim’s songs and told us about his film Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus, which we sought out and watched in our van on tour. A few years later, Jim moved to Athens and we started to cross paths periodically. Last year, Jim asked us to help him record a track for Aquairum Drunkard and some instrument tracks he was producing for the band The Skipperdees. Later on, we approached Jim about producing our upcoming record, and he proposed we team up and make a record together at our first meeting. It would be half his songs, half our songs. Of course, we jumped at the chance.

BRO – Jim is not a bluegrassy guy. You guys are a bluegrassy, old timey band. Was it difficult at all to mesh your respective sounds?

TB – Not at all. We were all certainly forced out of our comfort zones for this project, but I think that proved to be a great advantage. Perhaps my favorite track on the record is “Sorrow’s Song,” which is one of Jim’s. We didn’t intend to record it at all. Jim repurposed it to create “Sorrow’s Song. Packway Handle Band is full of obsessive planners, and we probably wouldn’t have been capable of such spontaneity – ate least not in the studio with our phenomenal engineer, Andy LeMaster – but Jim set to work on the tune and, sure enough, it evolved into one of the strongest songs on the record.

BRO – Packway Handle Band and Jim White will be hitting the road together. What can fans expect at these shows?

TB – It will be a surprise for all of us. We’ve played live exactly one time so far, which was when we were visiting the folks at Yep Roc. Just like during the recording, we are all forced out of our comfort zones on stage. Jim is fond of saying he looks like he’s sitting in the dentist’s chair when he’s performing. We, on the other hand, tend to lean heavily on fast, energetic material. There will probably be a little bit of each of those, and hopefully we’ll meet in the middle a lot, too. Our first show was a lot of fun, and I’m certain it will only get better.

BRO – We are featuring “Not A Song” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?

TB – I’ve subcontracted the answering of this question to Michael, our mandolin player, since it’s his song. He said, “I had actually written this one a few years ago but was not satisfied with the melody. Then, more recently, it just popped up out of nowhere with a melody I was really happy with. The words are a culmination of the frustration from being in a touring band and feeling like you’re never really getting anywhere. I also liked the idea of a  song that definitively declares itself as not being a song.” I can share that this was the first song we played at our first practice as we were getting ready to record. This was before Jim was in the picture. A lot of songs take a long time to be complete and fully arranged and sounding good, but this one felt great right from the first time we played it.

BRO – You and your wife are celebrating the birth of your first child, Ida. As a gift, I’d like to send her a banjo. How soon would be too soon?

TB – I feel qualified to say that it is never, ever too soon for a banjo.

Tom, the rest of the boys in Packway Handle Band, and Jim White are celebrating the release of Take It Like A Man, which drops today. Here at BRO, Trail Mix is excited to team up with the band and the fine folks at Yep Roc to provide you with the exclusive premiere of “Smack Dab In A Big Tornado.”  You can check it out here!

Jim White Vs. The Packway Handle Band hits the road in support of the new record this weekend, and you can grab a couple tickets to any of the shows below so very easily!

Shoot me an email at dave@blueridgeoutdoors with JW vs PHB and the show of your choice (see below!!) in the subject line.

January 30 – Standard Deluxe/Waverly, AL
January 31 – The Melting Point/Athens, GA
February 5 – Eddie’s Attic/Decatur, GA
February 6 – Eddie’s Attic/Decatur, GA
February 7 – High Watt/Nashville, TN
February 19 – Isis Music Hall/Asheville, NC
February 20 – The Visulite/Charlotte, NC
February 21 – Barking Legs Theater/Chattanooga, TN

A winner of will be chosen from all emails received by noon on Thursday, January 29th.

For more information on these shows or how you can grab a copy of the new record, surf over to the band’s website. Also, make sure to check out “Not A Song” on this month’s Trail Mix.

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