Now in his seventh decade, Tony Joe White has traveled a lot of miles from the cotton farm near Oak Grove, Louisiana, where he was born. From 1967-1971, while signed to the Monument label, he released a number of albums containing his unique brand of swamp rock. He also became a noted songwriter producing his big hit “Polk Salad Annie,” plus such songs as “Willie And Laura Mae Jones” (Dusty Springfield), “Rainy Night In Georgia” (Brook Benton), and “For Ol’ Times Sake” and “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” (Elvis Presley).
Following his time with Monument, he spent nearly four years recording for the Warner Brothers label. Real Gone Music has now released his three albums and six non-album singles under the title The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings.
His 1971 self-titled debut album for the label began a change in his style and sound. “They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail in Eudora Arkansas” and “My Kind Of Woman” were songs for the southern bar scene late at night but gentle ballads “Copper Kettle” and “The Daddy” hinted at a new direction for his music. This push and pull between his old and new sound is best seen in “A Night In The Life of A Swamp Fox,” which never quite settles into a specific grove. The final result is some wonderful parts but a somewhat disjointed whole.
1972’s The Train I’m On finds him settled into a gentler sound. Produced by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd and surrounded by the session musicians of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, there is an ease and comfort to the music. The lyrics have a complexity and depth and have elements of blues, soul, and folk music. The acoustic nature of many of the tracks fits the music well as the album remains one of the strongest of his career.
1973’s Homemade Ice Cream was recorded in Nashville and continued his subdued approach. While there are a couple of rockers, “Saturday Night In Oak Grove Louisiana” and “No News Is Good News,” it is the simple songs that give the album its smooth and relaxed nature.
Four decades have passed since his time with Warner Brothers and the music holds up well. The trio of albums presents a different side to much of his recorded music and is well worth a listen.