Old Soul Tony Joe White Goes Back to His Blues Roots

A mix of covers and original songs casts a powerful spell.

Album Review

Tony Joe White
Bad Mouthin’
Yep Roc

Tony Joe White already sounded like an old soul half a century ago, when his hit “Polk Salad Annie” brought the sultry pleasures of swamp rock to the mainstream. Today, he really is an old soul, but White’s gritty authority is undiminished. The smoldering “Bad Mouthin'” is a bare-bones affair that takes him back to his deep blues roots, showcasing his low growl of a voice and spare guitar, with occasional touches of bass, drums, and harmonica. Mixing stark covers of classics by influences like Lightnin’ Hopkins (“Awful Dreams”) and John Lee Hooker (“Boom Boom”) and pithy originals, including some of his first compositions, White burns slow and sure, capable of inducing chills with a dagger-like chord or ominous moan. It’s a powerful spell he’s casting.