Tony Joe White

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Tony Joe White

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“I’ve had unbelievable, beautiful freedom with the music for the last several years…” reflects Tony Joe White as a grainy dusk settles. Just entering his seventh decade, White spends his days off the road coaxing inspiration from his surroundings. Not one to write songs on command, they seem to find him—usually when he’s out on his property, a quiet couple of riverside acres some forty miles or so outside of Nashville. “All I can hear from where I sit,” he notes, “are coyotes, birds, or wolves.” Amidst that tranquility was born HOODOO, his latest album, which emerges via Yep-Roc Records on September 17, 2013. Awash in danger, spiritual uncertainty, and environmental fury, HOODOO’s lyrical concerns are matched by a particularly intense strain of White’s trademark swamp funk. Hence the title’s double-edged meaning: “hoodoo” referring both to the songs’ ominous tone and the palpable vibe that filled the studio as the songs were cut. “Our studio is an old antebellum house,” White says, describing his Church Street Studio in Franklin, Tennessee. Cut mostly live to tape—vocals and all—much of Hoodoo consists of first takes. “There’s some actual magic that came over all of us when we were doing this,” White recalls. “I would sit down with my drummer Cadillac (Bryan Owings) and my bass player the Troll (Steve Forrest), play twenty seconds of the tune, and then say ‘We’re gonna hit record, and you just play what comes into your heart.’ It’s like everyone is getting the hoodoo sensation. Spontaneity is beautiful. And,” he adds, “since it’s our studio, there’s no hurry: no one is over our shoulder saying when we gotta get in and when we gotta get out…we were the record company.” Culled from an initial stack of seventeen or eighteen tunes, the nine songs that comprise HOODOO come alive in the haunting atmosphere and intensity of the stripped-down recording process. Despite an illustrious past with a series of bands and original songs that have been recorded by everyone from Tina Turner to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, White feels no pressure to top himself. “There’s not a push nowhere,” he concludes. “Maybe I’ll stop playing shows and making records when the songs quit coming to me. But they still come to me. You see, I don’t work for a song—but once I get a hold of it I don’t let go. I just keep writing, and when I do, I want to go out and play it for somebody. It’s the songwriting that keeps me going.”

By: City Winery Nashville

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