Tony Joe White: Rain Crow

TonyJoeWhite_RainCrowMagic signs, rural rituals and (of course) swamps

Though Tony Joe White reached his commercial zenith as a performer with his 1968 debut, Black and White and its single “Polk Salad Annie,” he’s continued makin music ever since. In the nearly fifty years since that debut, he’s released two dozen albums across Monument, Warner Brothers, RCA, Casablanca, Columbia, Polydor and a host of independent labels. This latest finds his fuzz-toned guitar still slithering, and his vocal growl weary, wary and fully simmered in his native Louisiana. The Memphis funk of his earlier years has mostly given way to darker blues as he sings of magic signs, rural rituals, betrayal and, of course, swamps.

White writes from biographical seeds, pairing with his wife Leann to pen “Hoochie Woman,” and with Billy Bob Thornton for “The Middle of Nowhere.” The latter reignites White’s swamp chug of drums, low bass and percussive guitar, as the lyric takes the point of view of a friend’s highly observational son. The title track is based on a traditional Southern omen, and “Tell Me a Swamp Story” draws upon a harrowing chapter of White’s childhood. The songs are confessed as much as sung, but the revelations engender more mysteries than they resolve. It’s dark in the swamps, and you can’t always be sure of what you’re seeing, but you can be sure of what you’re hearing here, and it’s badass. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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