Puremusic interview with Tony Joe White

When one thinks about swamp music (and one should think about swamp music, at least sometimes), the first guitar player who comes to mind is probably Tony Joe White. He is of it. And he is so highly regarded by his iconic peers that a handful of the most luminary showed up to contribute to his newest recording. When you make a record, and Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, J.J. Cale, Michael McDonald, and Waylon Jennings (posthumous) all come aboard to contribute songs, singing and playing, at that point surely you can conclude that you got all the way there in your lifetime.

And Tony Joe White started getting there really early. He hit in his youth, first with "Soul Francisco" and then even bigger, with the huge hit that is pure South, "Polk Salad Annie." He really nailed it to the wall when he penned one of the greatest songs of anybody's time, "Rainy Night In Georgia." One of the many interesting stories in the conversation to come is how that classic almost never got recorded.

Tony is a statesman of the swamp, and a real Louisiana gentleman. He is soft & very deeply spoken. When he talks about his family, his friends and bandmates, you feel the love without his having to mention the word. He's very grateful for the success of his great songs, which allowed him play the music close to his heart, without compromise. He still tours the world regularly, more abroad than in the States. The prophet is sometimes not recognized in his hometown, to paraphrase the biblical saying. But in many places around the world, he is a legend.

As if having an interview with Tony wasn't enough of a memorable pleasure, I got to see him front and center at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville during the recent Americana Conference. I had the video camera running, and we include a couple of clips at the end of the interview. I was so close that I jumped the first time he stepped on his wah wah pedal.

It's really like this: if you like the blues, if you like the swampy kind of groove, and you don't have a Tony Joe White record in your collection, you're missing it, man. Fortunately for everybody, the new record is vitally beautiful and full of inspired collaborations with his famous friends and admirers. And if you want to add a little Polk Salad to the iPod, you can pick it up on iTunes. You're now entering a different time zone, here's Tony Joe White.       continue to interview