For his latest album, the “Swamp Fox” came up with a cool concept: half solo vocals, half duets with five of his favorite female singers, on a collection of new originals and collaborations, book-ended by a pair of instrumentals.
After the opening gut-string instrumental, “Gabriella,” the first voice heard is Shelby Lynne’s on “Can’t Go Back Home,” which she co-wrote with White – her southern mix of country and soul a perfect match for his style. Emmylou Harris is featured on “Wild Wolf Calling Me,” and Jessi Colter and White sound like they’ve been singing together for years on “Fireflies In The Storm.” The latter two were co-written by Tony Joe and his wife, Leann.
Lucinda Williams’ slurred vocals are right at home on the CD’s funkiest track, “Closing In On The Fire,” which features Tony Joe’s Strat at its squawkiest – employing his Colorsound fuzz and Boomerang wah simultaneously. And amid the female stars, Tony Joe’s daughter, Michelle White, holds her own, on the tropical-tinged “Playa Del Carmen Nights.”
The solo material is equally solid – from the Jimmy Reed groove of “Back Porch Therapy” to the somber, Hookeresque “Rich Woman Blues.” Tony Joe White’s instantly recognizable singing, guitar playing, and songwriting are always cause for celebration, and for the past 10 years, White has taken control of production and simplified things, making the purest, best records of his career. And this is one of them.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.