Album review: Tony Joe White - Rain Crow

Americana UK reviewed Rain Crow, the new album from Tony Joe White ahead of its release this Friday, 27th May. Read it in full, below:
The Swamp Fox returns with some irresistable Southern Gothic fables - 8/10
The legend that is Tony Joe White, the loquacious Louisiana raconteur who wrote ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ and ‘Polk Salad Annie’ makes a welcome return with ‘Rain Crow’ his second album for Yep Roc. Produced by his son Jody, with some co-writes from his wife, Leann, and recorded in his own studio, ‘Rain Crow’ exemplifies White’s gift for telling a good story. The album delightfully shimmers with references to crawdads, ‘gators, moonshine and other Southern tropes. ‘The Bad Wind’ is a grim tale about a cuckold wronged by his baby girl, who he trails to a cafe downtown to an assignation with her new beau, where the only item on the menu is a loaded 12-Gauge. One could easily imagine former Bad Seed Nick Cave covering ‘Bad Wind’; its filmic lyrics embroidered with a dark but engaging rhythm that billows like a shroud.
White co-wrote ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ with neighbour Billy Bob Thornton, it tells the sweet story of Joe Carroll, a friend of White’s with Down’s Syndrome who longed to get on the yellow school bus and go to class with the other students. ‘Joe, you’re 30 years old’ says his Ma, as they sit on the porch together watching the bus depart. ‘Ain’t no place for you on that bus.’ It’s a deeply moving song that resonates with the sympathetic spirit of Thornton’s role of Karl Childers in the film ‘Sling Blade’ for which he won an Oscar for best original screenplay. On ‘Right back in the Fire’ the hoodoo guru opens his heart with a tender tale that reveals how a chance meeting with an ex- rekindled an incendiary flame. ‘Do you know what your hand-written letters meant to me? / Does the rain still sound the same on your roof?’ White’s longing is captured in a tortured vocal which sounds like Ian Curtis, if he’d forgone the rope and lived on into his seventies and, natch’... if he’d been born in the USA. ‘Where do they go?’ with its lyric ‘Where do hummingbirds go when winter’s coming on? / Do they make their way down south, to find a place that’s warm? / I’d like to know, where do they go?’ turns into a reflection on mortality, with White musing on his grandparent’s demise, whilst obviously thinking about his own eventual departure.
Dark thoughts muster for a finite number of days. There is a darkness that pervades much of White’s work, that’s not to say that it’s depressing, far from it. ‘Rain Crow’ exudes the kind of murky warmth that welcomes us into the paludal depths where we can blissfully wallow.
Pre-order Rain Crow here.
See Tony Joe White live in concert across the UK & Europe this October and November. Click for full details and to purchase tickets here.