Tony Joe White – The Shine (2010)

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As a Louisiana-born singing and songwriting swamp pop legend, Tony Joe White is a guy we like a lot around here but never gotten around to singing his praises. His new album The Shine, released last September 26, gives us the perfect occasion to do so. The originator of hits like “Polk Salad Annie,” “Rainy Night In Georgia,” “Roosevelt and Ira Lee (Night of the Moccasin)” and Tina Turner’s “Steamy Windows,” has been on a bit of a roll the last ten years, even if too few people have noticed it. The Shine continues that artistic revival, and it’s a record no one else could have made. Employing a small band that includes drums, bass, an occasional keyboardist and even a cellist, White handles all the guitars and harmonica.

Though there’s electric instruments (White is often supplementing a soft, nylon string guitar with his trademark dirty and gritty electric guitar accompaniment), these sessions have all the intimacy of an unplugged club date. The recording does a fine job of separating the individual instruments and miking up White’s battered, deep croon close; a good idea since he often doesn’t get much more strident than a murmur. But White doesn’t need to howl to get across his first and third person tales of travels, turns of fortunes and lost loves. Somewhat autobiographical at times, these White songs, like all his best songs, stay on the edge of consciousness long after the last notes are played. Rarely even reaching mid-tempo, these tracks reflect a man whose been around the block a few times, but has picked up some wisdom along the way and uses it to craft handmade songs that are frequently cover-worthy.

In an album full of memorable lines, there’s one that stands out. In the slow, simmering RnB funk of “Tell Me Why, White coos, “It’s all about the song, keeping it simple/gotta have passion, gotta have soul.” That’s the creed the Swamp Fox has lived by his whole career. It’s the philosophy that he’s sticking with strongly on The Shine.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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