Sure, I come back after a little sabbatical and there’s no fanfare, no cake, no party, and, worst of all, no friggin’ BALLOONS for chrissakes. What the #$%^?
Anyway, been gone for too long, drinking shit that’s too strong, learning some songs and singin’ ’em wrong, removing some groupies’ thongs and hitting some bongs, listening to T-Rex and banging some gongs – fuck it…it’s time to slow down a little and who best to slow down to than some Snakey?
And by “Snakey” I mean some Tony Joe White, the coolest Southern mutha since James Brown.
If’n ya don’t know the name, ya still know White’s game as he has written some of the coolest soul hits around. Some of them, like Polk Salad Annie (his only big hit as an artist), Rainy Night In Georgia and Groupie Girl, have become rock and roll evergreens, covered by many, many artists and allowing White to earn a living as a songwriter even as his under-the-radar albums stay unknown to the public but worshipped by true music fans who love his foot-stomping boogie beats, masterful guitar work and swampy rock/country songs.
And before ya say something like, ‘sure, he wrote a couple of hit songs, so what’ consider he’s made a career out of using his thick Southern drawl, his womper-stomper (a wooden board he stomps on to create a beat while he plays guitar – yeah, that’s right, a fucking wooden BOARD – how’s that for primal?) and a guitar to create songs many people consider legendary. As a plus, the French love him and treat him like a hero when he tours there!
Believe me, Tony Joe White could take those White Stripes off of Jack White, tie Jack’s ass up with them, shove some Black Keys up Jack’s ass and still have time to sing a cool little ditty about some trolls who love rock and roll, dig? I mean, twenty albums (all of them cooler than shit) and 40 years of singing swamp pop ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.
But, like all true artists, Tony Joe has had his down times. Pretty much labelless from 1983 to 1999, White survived off of songwriting royalties, selling homemade albums out of his car, and touring Europe. While not a bad life, surely not fitting a songwriter and personality such as him.
Thankfully, at the dawn of the millenium, things started turning around. People gave him deals, good ones, and since 2000 White has released about six albums and had a bunch of others reissued on labels large and small. Just this year he has two releases: one on New West Records featuring an Austin City Limits TV appearance from 1982 and a new studio album featuring duets with male rockers Mark Knopfler, J.J. Cale, and Eric Clapton among others. The new studio set is a companion piece to his last studio record in 2004 on which he duetted with female artists like Shelby Lynne and Lucinda Williams.
As his nickname suggests, Tony Joe White keeps shedding old personas like a snake sheds skin and comes back new and improved every few years or so. Right now, he is on the tear of his career and if you have a chance to see him live I would pay whatever he is asking (and double it!) and see a legend in action. Until you have the good fortune to do that though, please pick up his records. Every one of them is a gem and any blues or rock fan will get a supreme delight out of hearing him do his stuff.
He is a true original. Please check him out, buy yourself a wooden board and maybe write your own best sellers like Tony Joe does.
Who knows about wooden boards?
The Music Nerd knows…..????!!!!????