Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s voice reminds me of reading the Bible. The speech is so stilted and hopelessly antiquated, it somehow rings poetic. Since 1991’s groundbreaking After Awhile, though, the voice and the songs seem to have been either muddled in the mix or overwhelmed by bombast passing for production values. So it is no small pleasure to report that Jimmie Dale, in voice and in presence, has hit higher ground on One Endless Night . It is warm and folksy enough to telegraph his zone of comfort with enough traces of strangeness to make you wonder if he really did have some link to the Lubbock Lights UFO sightings in the early fifties.
Shimmering guitar notes that introduce the title track set a tranquil mood that flows — and I mean flows — into “Down by the Banks of the Guadalupe,” a Butch Hancock original that has shot to the top of my list as the most eloquent musical ode to a Texas river I’ve ever heard. The dreamy vibe holds through Townes Van Zandt’s “No Lonesome Tune” and “Blue Shadows,” a Jimmie Dale-Hal Ketchum collaboration. Then things get deliciously weird, bouncing from “Defying Gravity,” a happy ditty about earthlings and mortality and love (of course), into “Ripple,” a Grateful Dead cover that sticks to the original script. Jimmie Dale follows that with “Ramblin’ Man,” another Hancock gem that captures the genuine spirit of Sun Records-vintage rockabilly, and an epic story-song reading of Tom Campbell and Steve Gillette’s “Darcy Farrow.” The album closes with a choirboy’s rendition of the classic “Mack the Knife,” rife with threatening undertones, and another rockabilly scorcher, “ D.F.W.” (“One stole my mind, the other stole my heart”), adapted from a Lightnin’ Hopkins tune. It might not be a work of biblical proportions, but One Endless Night is close enough for me. by Joe Nick Patoski