This post has been updated. See note below for details.
In conjunction with Tuesday’s 70th birthday of swamp-rock singer-songwriter Tony Joe White, whose Southern soul-drenched 1969 hit “Polk Salad Annie” became a regular part of Elvis Presley’s concerts in the 1970s, Pop & Hiss serves up the exclusive premiere of “The Gift,” a track from White’s forthcoming album “Hoodoo.”
The album’s title is fitting given White’s upbringing in the rural Louisiana city of Oak Grove, east of Shreveport, and the new song signals a continuation of the potently stripped-down, deep-groove work he’s recorded in recent years on 2006’s “Uncovered,” 2008’s “Deep Cuts” and 2010’s “The Shine” albums.
White, as he did on early signature tunes including “Polk Salad Annie” and his 1970 hit for Brook Benton, “Rainy Night in Georgia,” paints a vivid scene from the opening notes:
I was sitting in a graveyard late one night
And I didn’t know why
Had an old guitar and a bottle of wine
Fingernail moon hanging in the sky
The album, scheduled for release on Sept. 17, was largely recorded live in his home studio, which he says allowed him to work at his own pace.
“There’s some actual magic that came over all of us when we were doing this,” White recalls. “I would sit down with my drummer Cadillac [Bryan Owings] and my bass player the Troll [Steve Forrest], play 20 seconds of the tune, and then say, ‘We’re gonna hit record, and you just play what comes into your heart.’ It’s like everyone is getting the hoodoo sensation. Spontaneity is beautiful.”
White said the thought of retirement doesn’t much cross his mind.
“There’s not a push nowhere,” he said. “Maybe I’ll stop playing shows and making records when the songs quit coming to me. But they still come to me. You see, I don’t work for a song — but once I get a hold of it I don’t let go. I just keep writing, and when I do, I want to go out and play it for somebody. It’s the songwriting that keeps me going.”
A stream of “The Gift” can be heard here:
Update at 11:26 a.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that today is Tony Joe White's 75th birthday. It is his 70th.
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