Big InnerAlbum |
2012 blue-eyed soul debut gets a big-league reissue
Matthew E. White is a big guy with a big beard, a big heart and, in the best possible sense, a small voice. A Virginia native who spent a chunk of his childhood with his missionary parents in the Philippines, White's musical heart is in old-school blue-eyed country-soul. Think The Band before they got so overblown, or even Van Morrison in his mystic-minstrel phase. But at the same time, he's kind of a miniaturist: most of the seven lengthy songs on his debut album Big Inner (say it fast and you'll get the joke) unfold at a gentle simmer: there's strings and horns and backing vocalists (including a full-blown choir on the opening "One of These Days"!), but rarely do all of them come into play at the same time. And rather than the big R&B-belter voice of a Rod Stewart, or even Levon Helm's twangy croon, White rarely raises his voice above a conversational murmur. (Fans of Lambchop's Kurt Wagner or The Clientele's Alasdair MacLean will find White a kindred spirit.) Self-effacing enough that he conscientiously credits reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff, tropicalia giant Jorge Ben and gospel oddball Washington Phillips as co-authors on the songs where he quotes their lyrics, White writes slow-burning pop-soul tunes with an emphasis on spiritual lyrics and gently-swaying melodies. The 10-minute closing epic "Brazos," built around a "Hey Jude"-like chant of "Jesus Christ, He is our Lord/Jesus Christ, He is your friend" closes the album on a suitably wide-eyed note. He may be a beginner, but there's clearly much more to come.