THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “On his fourth album Repeat Offender, outlaw country survivor Jim Mitchell distills decades of hard knocks — professional, personal, legal and literal — into an ultra-authentic, largely autobiographical record that defiantly shuns sanitized country-pop. “I’m tryin’ to be the yin to that yang,” he pondered. “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. Among hitchers and train-hoppers, making a musical connection could be the difference between eating and going hungry, between a friend or a fight. “Dad was kinda like a 1960s and ’70s Woody Guthrie, without the politics,” Mitchell recalled. “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.”
Mitchell absorbed an encyclopedic knowledge of the likes of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff and Hank Snow from his father. (His second album, Down the Old Road to Home, is a tribute to Rodgers). “In my teens, when I started hearing Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr., I was like, this is what I’m gonna do the rest of my life!” he recalled.
Blessed with good looks, a country repertoire reaching back to the 1920s, and a backstory straight out of a Haggard song, Mitchell had the world at his feet when he relocated from his native New Jersey to Nashville with the aim of “going national.” There, he soon earned the nickname of “The Total Package,” landed a lucrative house band gig, and was opening for the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Jennings and John Michael Montgomery. His bandmates were first-call guys who played with Williams and Haggard. Stardom seemed fated and imminent.
But then one of his oldest friends, who’d also made the move to Nashville, died in a car wreck and Mitchell was further torn by being offered his buddy’s gig in one of the hottest bars in town. Simultaneously, his son was diagnosed with a medical condition that required a father’s full attention. So Mitchell walked away from Nashville and from his dreams. “I was just depressed as hell, but I focused on my son and got him through it,” he recounted.
All the while, Mitchell and his longtime band The Repeat Offenders continued to make a living as one of the top country/rock acts in the Mid-Atlantic region. Now based in Pennsylvania, he racked up countless gigs, not to mention the brawls and jail time that go with the lifestyle.
Mitchell felt cursed once again when a new label he’d signed with appeared more interested in partying than making great records. The studio they put him in flooded not once, but twice, before the money ran out. Mitchell had to wait out his contract while struggling to complete the self-produced Repeat Offender on his own dime. But karma finally rewarded his talent, truth, and perseverance when he landed a label that really understands country, roots, and Americana music: L.A.’s Mother West. “I’m livin’ a different way; talkin’ a different way,” he enthused. “All my experience and all that I learned from industry friends has finally merged. I feel prepared like never before.”
Up-tempo lead single Hillbilly (With A RnR Heart) encapsulates Repeat Offender in raucous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek style: Organic, rock-tinted country that tells true-life tales of running from the law and fast talking when caught. The recurring theme continues with the title track, embroidered with fleet finger picking, a more wistful air … and a real-life jailbreak. “Being a musician, I work in bars,” said Mitchell. “So, I just wrote about those experiences of trying to get home after a gig without getting arrested!”
Album opener and third single Why You Rockin’ On Me is a topical reaction to societal ranting that connects through Mitchell’s lived-in timbre and his gift for instantly memorable melody. “There’s a lot of anger in the world … everybody’s screamin’!” he explained. “I just picked up on that theme of being around a bunch of angry people.”
Another standout is No Part of Nothing, a wonderfully conversational duet with Laura Fiacco in which Mitchell overlays the tale of a tumultuous breakup with a phrase used by his OG bluegrass buddies to dismiss inauthentic music. The album closes with a deft, spirited reworking of the Bob Dylan deep cut Seven Days.
Mitchell will support Repeat Offender by continuing a lifelong tour schedule that can top 150 shows a year, plus music and lyric videos for each single. The album is an old-soul slab of timeless songcraft and ultra-relatable narrative lyricism that offers a poignant portal to our own memories and emotions without ever taking itself too seriously. “Anytime that I’m playing something, I’m trying to reach the audience and make them feel something,” Mitchell concluded. “It’s great if you like the beat or you like the lyrics, but maybe I just wrote something kinda deep — and I want you to feel it.”