Tony Joe White, Borderline, London
Friday 02 July 2004
A man who has lugged a swamp box and a whomper stomper from the Bouef River Bayou of Louisiana to the backstreets of W1 doesn't want his amplifier to sound as if it has just been dragged out of a levee. Further still, if this is the man who wrote hits for Mr Elvis A Presley and can still crank out a songs such as "Do You Wear a Garter Belt?" - with a top lip that looks like it's being yanked upwards on the end of a fishing line - he don't want his amplifier being fixed by no chick.
"Ain't it nice have a girl come fix yo' equipment," quips Tony Joe White, the 61-year-old, part-Cherokee purveyor of what the French first termed "swamp rock", a dark Dixie gumbo of blues, soul, rock and country which emerged from the stable of songwriters at Nashville's Combine Music in the early 1970s - which included fellow Confederates Kris Kristofferson and Georgia's Larry Jon Wilson - and the music of artists such as Jerry Reed, Joe South, John Fogerty and Mac (Dr John) Rebennack of New Orleans. It would go on to inspire everyone from an Abbey Road-era Beatles to The Rolling Stones of Let It Bleed and Exile On Main Street.
Ink-black sunglasses in place and Stratocaster in his lap, White - bear-like, and the former Gram Parsons-like good looks now doughy - opens with the slow, breathy baritone of "Rich Woman Blues", before being joined by his drummer onstage and ploughing into a piledrivingly funky "Undercover Agent for the Blues", covered by Tina Turner. Thereafter, a reverential, mostly male crowd requested - and received - the likes of the inter-racial-marriage meditation "Willy Mae and Laura Jones" - covered by Dusty Springfield on Dusty in Memphis - the Cajun Gothic of "They Caught the Devil and Put Him in Jail in Eudora, Arkansas" and the corn-pone raunch of "Stud Spider", all punctuated with blasts of harmonica, and an edgy wah-wah that justified the manly sobriquets "swamp box" and "whomper stomper".
Then, the hits: "Rainy Night in Georgia", a smash for Brook Benton and covered by Ray Charles; then, Elvis's favourite ode to family dysfunction, "Polk Salad Annie". The former - the high point of the show - stood out in a machismo-heavy set like an early-morning rainbow. But it was nearly upstaged by the anti-vegan polemic of "The Organic Shuffle", taken from White's latest album, Snakey: "He was on aisle five, looking for sprouts/ When all of a sudden he just let it out.../ the Organic Shuffle." In the high chapel of the Swamp Fox, as his French fans call him, there ain't no call for sprouts - or chicks who can fix amplifiers.
Broadcaster unveils Christmas scheduleTV
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 4 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 5 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014: Ominous 'Last Christmas' title could signal Jenna Coleman's departure
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel expected to become overnight bestseller
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict