Album: Tony Joe White, The Shine (Swamp/Munich)

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The Independent Culture

"It's all a bout the song, keeping it simple/Gotta have passion, gotta have soul," sings Tony Joe White here on "Tell Me Why", the stripped-down country-funk arrangement bearing out his intentions.

As it happens, that's one of the more involved arrangements on The Shine, whose songs of rural austerity and tainted love are set to the most basic of arrangements, White's baritone burr brushing against just guitar, bass and a suggestion of drums. This is rustic hardship sketched in the minimum of phrases: bare-bones evocations of bare-bones lives nearing the end of their tether, mountain men facing their own extinction with bitter resignation and, all too often, no-one to share the burden. "I had a ride but I forgot where it was parked," sings the bereft protagonist suffering a "Strange Night" of the soul, "I guess there ain't no place I'm going."

Download this: Ain't Doing Nobody No Good; Tell Me Why; Strange Night