Tony Joe White (from the album Bad Mouthin’ available on Yep Roc Records)
Primal playing for Tony Joe White is a natural occurrence. The swamp boogie in the guitar strings of Tony Joe White is a groove that has been with the songman since he branded the strum on his 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie”. Bad Mouthin’, the latest release from Tony Joe White, still finds the same pocket of rhythm, balancing its cuts between self-penned tunes and covers of Blues classics. There are moments on the album that feel haunted by the Blues. “Bad Dreams” trudges with heavy feet through the thick air of nighttime visions, the cut walking a nightmarish hall of sonics, awakening in a still-sleepy pace as Tony Joe White relates memories in Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Awful Dreams”. The voice of Tony Joe White begins the song cycle in Bad Mouthin’, talking to the band saying ‘let me hit a couple of licks then we’ll go’ before the rhythm falls in line on the title track.
Fifty years into his career as both performer and songwriting hits of other artists (Elvis Presley, Brooks Benton, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton) Bad Mouthin’ recalls the music heard by a younger version of the Louisiana-born Bluesman behind the guitar. Seventy-five-year-old Tony Joe White crafts Bad Mouthin’ as a Blues album in the way the soundtrack has spun inside his head, stating that ‘when and where I grew up, Blues was just about the only music I heard and truly loved. I’ve always thought of myself as a Blues musician, bottom line, because the Blues is real, and I like to keep everything I do as real as it gets. So, I thought it was time to make a Blues record that sounds the way I always loved the music’. In the style of his own influences, Tony Joe White introduces “Cool Town Woman”, finds each day bleeding into the next in “Stockholm Blues”, and sings a “Sundown Blues” as a clip-clop beat makes its way home for a night of misery. Bad Mouthin’ talks of Blues history, petitioning love to return one more time on footstomps and harp blasts in “Baby Please Don’t Go”. The album takes a swing at Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man”, picks up the pace with Charley Patton’s “Down the Dirt Road Blues”, and puts a rumble into the groove of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” while Tony Joe White wanders haunted halls with his guitar and foot tapping time in a version of the Elvis Presley hit, “Heartbreak Hotel”.
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