Tony Joe White The Heroines

Like his contemporary J.J. Cale, Tony Joe White has always seemed more comfortable shrouding himself in the mystery that his music has always evoked. Since becoming the "swamp rock” king when Elvis scored a hit with his "Polk Salad Annie,” White has defiantly stuck to his signature sound and writing about his Southern upbringing. Such single-mindedness is indeed the stuff of legends, and White has become an inspiration for a new generation of Southern soul artists. Some of the women, at least, appear throughout this album (hence the title); White’s first major release after many years touring primarily in Europe. His most devoted acolyte, Shelby Lynne, gets a lot of the spotlight on the slow-burning opener "Can’t Go Back Home,” but Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Jessi Colter get down just as well to White’s seductive groove. His own baritone hasn’t stood the test of time as well as his other talents, but it’s still refreshing to hear a truly original artist returning to what he does best. The Heroines is a worthy addition to White’s rich catalogue. (Sanctuary)