ARTIST PROFILE| TONY JOE WHITE

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BY SEAN O’GRADY

 

The swamp lands of Louisiana always have a tale to tell, and the master of telling them is Tony Joe White. On his new album Rain Crow, Tony Joe casts his eye back to his hometown of Oak Grove Louisiana to soak up southern myths and stories of his childhood. Indelibly etched with that southern swamp groove that is his calling card, White with the help of his producer son Jody adds delicate flourishes to the songs to emphasise their heart felt nature.

 

 

There aren’t many who can tell a story like Tony Joe and it seemed appropriate with the tone of the album that when he had a chat with the Northsider from his home in Nashville he was in the middle of a rain soaking storm. The title track is a sublime slice of southern funk, low and rumbling, and steeped in southern folklore. I asked Tony Joe about the genesis of that song, ” I grew up on a cotton farm and the farmers were always needing rain and they would sit out on the porch talking about it, I was about eight years old and one of the farmers stood up and said there wasn’t going to be any rain until you hear the rain crow. He doesn’t look or sound like a river crow, when he makes a noise it sounds real low. Two nights later they had more rain than they needed after that all the men believed in the rain crow.”

 

 

Middle of Nowhere is a beautiful nostalgic look at life in a small southern town, it’s also a story of an old friend who had downs syndrome. Tony Joe sings of summer in the middle of nowhere, his reality being the heat and all you have and all you know is what is within your reach. The song features an unexpected collaborator in actor Billy Bob Thornton of Sling Blade fame, the two were introduced by famed Muscle Shoals songwriter Donnie Fritts and they soon discovered they had a lot in common as Tony Joe explained. “We found out that we were born only 40 miles from each other he was born in Arkansas across the line, and we discovered that we were raised the same way so we had a lot in common. So he came up to Nashville and hung out at my studio and we listened to some songs and then he called me from Los Angeles and told me to come out and write some songs with him. Out of that we came up with three songs and the one we used was Middle of Nowhere.”

 

 

Tony Joe is a regular visitor to these shores and is heading back to town for some shows prior to his performance at Bluesfest at Byron Bay. I asked Tony about his relationship with Australian audiences, “I always look forward to coming down to Australia the audiences are always enthusiastic and they know how to get into it”. Tony Joe White will be playing at the Thornbury Theatre this Thursday the 13th of April. For other dates check out his website at the link below.

 

http://www.tonyjoewhite.com/

 

 

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