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Record Review

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Forever saddled with the stigma of his best-known song, "Polk Salad Annie," singer/songwriter Tony Joe White has so much more to offer. His smoky voice is perfectly suited to his Southern gothic story-songs, and his blend of country, R&B and Delta blues has earned him notoriety and respect from fans and peers. Elvis Presley dug his music so much he did note-for-note covers of White's tunes. (Yeah, even "Polk Salad Annie.")

On his first new release in years, White strips away the overdone instrumentation and forced "funkiness" that marred his few '80s and early-'90s recordings. Working out of his home studio with just a guitar and a harmonica, White lets the music flow freely -- and the stark finished product is staggeringly good. Particularly powerful are the pathos of "Going Back to Bed" and the dark shame of "Clovis Green."

White's honest reflections on life are wrapped in deceptively subtle melodies that glide gently along with the words, yet hook the listener and complement the atmosphere he strives to create. Even without additional accompaniment, White is in complete control of the emotional impact his music delivers, and the pure essence of his art carries though the entire disc. This is one of those late night whiskey-sippin' records -- the perfect soundtrack for personal contemplation.

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