Tony Joe White
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed September 17, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Whether he has drawn inspiration from the realms of country or the blues, Tony Joe White’s music always has been so seriously soulful that making a series of remixes from his output seems like a natural thing to do. Leave it to White to take it upon himself to pull off this feat in his own weird way. He created his latest album Deep Cuts in collaboration with his son Jody, and it is composed primarily of reconfigured versions of songs that span his career.
In truth, however, Deep Cuts isn’t really a remix album, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, its tracks were recorded specifically for the outing, though they also were augmented with digitally created drums, beats, loops, strings, and other effects. Over the course of the endeavor, the importance of the underlying grooves repeatedly supplants the structures of the songs, and this, in turn, lends Deep Cuts — with its hypnotically heady cadences — the distinct aura of a remix-oriented endeavor.
Inevitably, some of the tracks on Deep Cuts fare better than others, though it’s unfortunate that none of them truly improve upon White’s original recordings. Several of the instrumentals — Set the Hook, Homemade Ice Cream, and Swamp Water — merely sound like demos that are waiting patiently to be completed and brought to life. By contrast, White’s growling, John Lee Hooker-style of singing is framed perfectly by the loping beats and the serrated buzzes of a guitar, which come together in ways that lend a gritty and oppressively ominous air to tunes like As the Crow Flies and Roosevelt and Ira Lee.
White always has been recognized as a songwriter as opposed to a performer, and try as he might, he has struggled throughout his career to build anything beyond a small but devoted following. Deep Cuts, then, is a rather odd concoction because its contents play like eerie meditations rather than fodder for the club scene. Possessing a dark, shadowy baritone, White has never been the most expressive singer in the business. However, by burying his vocals so far inside these mesmerizing grooves, his strength as a lyricist is seriously dampened. The words that spring from his mouth are given less weight, and hence they are harder to follow.
Deep Cuts is, therefore, focused more upon setting a mood than on telling a story. There’s no question that White’s material is presented in a new context, one which ought to provide him with the opportunity to connect with the most adventurous members of a younger generation. Still, one is left wondering if White might have had better success had he applied this approach to a batch of fresh material rather than a stash of his vintage tunes. In the end, Deep Cuts is interesting, but it hardly is essential.
Of Further Interest...
Deep Cuts is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box