Tony Joe White has accomplished much in the years since he emerged from his home in Louisiana’s swamp country and the hardscrabble circuit of Texas honky-tonks. His music is part of America’s soundtrack – sparse and elegant, filled with shadows, sadness and beauty. Nobody else writes songs like these – songs that evoke both the mysteries of the place were he was raised and the spirits that haunt us all in our most private, lonely moments.
Nobody sings them like White either. That dark baritone, scarred and sweet, brings these songs to life like none other. Even so, others have memorably interpreted his songs, from Brook Benton’s unforgettable take on “Rainy Night in Georgia” in 1970 to Tina Turner’s intensely soulful rendition of “Steamy Windows.” Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Etta James – iconic artists in their own right have honored “the Swamp Fox” by cutting his tunes. Others have joined White, with Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne among those who have paid tribute as guests on recent, theme-oriented projects such as The Heroines and Uncovered.