Tony Joe White

Take Home the Swamp

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It's difficult to say anything about Tony Joe White's Take Home the Swamp. First, it feels like a bootleg; Europe's Music Avenue Records gave it a kind of stripped-down presentation, and the sound from different sources furthers that impression. Only White can say whether it is or not. If it is, he should get paid double because sloppy or not, this baby smokes. After 2004's Heroines, with Emmylou Harris, Jessi Colter, Lucinda Williams, and Shelby Lynne (can White pick his duet partners or what?) and 2006's slick guest-studded Uncovered, this (perhaps unauthorized?) raw, funky, swamp-rich live album comes as something of a shock. At only a shade over 32 minutes, Take Home the Swamp is a semi load of blasting Swamp Fox that induces chills, fever, and -- to use an over-worn political catch phrase in a new context -- shock and awe. Here are blues standards such as "Baby Please Don't Go" and Jimmy Reed's "You Got Me Running" mixed with White's own classics such as "Roosevelt and Ira Lee," "I Want You Baby," and "Hard to Handle." White is playing his Fender Stratocaster and harmonica and growling with soul and fire. It's all intense, all seductive as hell, all spine-tingling and ass-shaking. Playing lead guitar fills and solo and harmonica at the same time is a White strength, one of the many on display here, but it's the vibe that makes it all happen -- that sexual unbridled need and knowing that pour from the stage like smoke, entering everyone at the gig and spelling them to dance really close. But it's so simple: guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, and vocal in front, taken from different performances, along with what sounds like an outtake of "Polk Salad Annie" with horns and the like that is dirtier and even funkier than the single version, with an in-the-red guitar solo in the middle complete with Louisiana dirt wah-wah pedal. This is one to snag -- and quick, because who knows how long it will be around.

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