Jim Bob - The Essential Jim Bob (Cherry Red Records)

Jim Bob – The Essential Jim Bob (Cherry Red Records)

As a lad growing up in the 70s, there was only one Jim Bob, and this was Jim-Bob Walton, the younger brother of John-Boy Walton from the wholesome American TV series The Waltons. This was the case until the 80s gave way to the 90s, with The Happy Mondays ringing in my ears and wearing oversized clothes, a friend’s younger brother thrust his recently purchased copy of 101 Damnations between my ears. By Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, it was ‘Sheriff Fatman‘, a number that appears halfway through its A-side, that was the real show-stopper. The band’s Les ‘Fruitbat’ Carter and Jim Bob Morrison, made their name with a distinctive style of power pop, which fused samples, sequenced bass, drum machines and loaded lyrics, leaving no question as to their agenda. The band split, following 6 albums, 3 labels and after ‘Fruitbat’ insulted Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis, following their 1992 Glastonbury appearance. Since the breakup of Carter USM, he has performed as a solo artist, releasing a baker’s dozen of albums, among these being 2006’s Best of Jim Bob, as well as putting pen to parchment to become a best-selling author.

This is the second collection of tunes Jim Bob has brought together from his vast catalogue. I would choose to call this a companion piece to Best of Jim Bob, with only 2 tunes from the first collection finding their way here. Rather than chronologically, the artist has collected together tunes that easily sit together and is “…a hopscotch of songs that celebrate a vivid, dark, substantial world that is as real now as when I wrote about it”.  Jim goes on to say, “I spent far too long working out what the difference between a greatest hits, a best of and an essential collection is, and which category these 21 songs fits into. In the end I did what I so often do. I asked myself ‘What Would The Clash do?’ Looking at my record collection I decided this was my ‘Essential Clash’. I’m now looking forward to future releases of ’Super Black Market Jim Bob’ and the three disc boxset, ‘Jim Bob On Broadway’”. I couldn’t help chuckling when reading this and The Clash, well that’s obvious, but nice to see it pointed out.

Lyrically, these 21 tunes possess a reality that I’m sure will raise a smile and there are those that will have you laughing out loud, such is Jim’s sharp wit. Commencing with ‘2020 WTF!’, a year we’ll remember for all the wrong reasons and a period that history will not forget. At 27 seconds for ‘2020’, he’s got his work cut out, so as you might expect, this is quite a fierce number and for this reason, it’s difficult to make out the words in places. The final line however will come at you, clearly like a knife, “…your celebrities are stupid, your politicians suck, your promises are empty, 2020 what the…”, you’ll fill in the space I’m sure and do you remember ‘The Summer Of No Touching’?, well Jim Bob does. Next comes ‘Dream Come True’, a number which raises the issue some artists have taken, as the words suggest “…for a hundred pounds I’ll come and sing in your front room. For fifty more pounds I’ll show you how to play the tune…”. Jim’s observation is brilliant and this tongue-in-cheek attitude is the start of many that feature and may have you feeling like you’re looking in the mirror.

Some tunes are easily remembered, from acoustic jams to full band recitals that once familiar may have you providing a vocal accompaniment. Be this in the shower, car or living room, these numbers have a personal quality that can be taken to heart, just try not to wake the neighbours. I particularly like those that have universal appeal and I’m sure we’ve all been here when trying to solve the reason technology is not working. So while talking to the technical helpline we might ask, ‘Where’s the Backdoor, Steve?’. Holding a resonance for more of us than we would care to admit, as the reply comes,“…just turn it off and on again please…”. This story left me in fits of laughter, recalling the countless times that I have received this reply, but for the giant mainframe, we call the Earth, well where’s the off-switch?

On the second LP and as the album is winding down, Jim takes up the subject that is obviously close to his heart, that of conservation. Here rather than talking in terms of the human trying to solve a problem, on The Loneliest Elephant in the World he places himself in the elephant’s feet, an animal heading toward extinction. This is a heartbreaking tale and one I’m sure was extremely hard for Jim to tell, just as it is on the listener. As Jim sings, “How I wish I could forget the lonely nights inside the zoo. The days of cruelty and neglect, but forgetting is not what my people do…”, an elephant’s life in captivity is portrayed so well in this song. An extremely emotional tale and one the songwriter has done well to display. The accompanying music rises and descends in line with this story. This is a double album with 21 songs and it closes with ‘Angelstrike!‘, one of those two songs that may be found on his earlier, Best Of Jim Bob. This is another heart-wrenching tale depicting everyday events, although in an altered reality, one where the angels take industrial action. Coming complete with a musical backdrop that descends into one of electric guitar, playing augmented chords, as the tale just gets more desperate. As Jim explained, this was his ‘Essential Clash’ and has been an emotional journey through the artist’s conscience and wish to make the world a better place. Whether the world’s powers will listen is another story.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.