Matthew E White


Big InnerDomino ****

Let’s hear it for the country-soul dudes. It’s obvious from the get-go that Matthew E White is attuned to the sweet spot where redneck country and southern soul got together and produced magnificent music. But thatwas a couple of decades ago, a back-in-the-day kind of thing, the stuff of vintage vinyl and halycon memories. Does such a combination make sense in 2013?

You can find the answer to that one by listening (again and again) to Big Inner. The album is the work of White and a band of meaty players pulling weirdbeard musical strokes and dreaming big dreams while hanging out in an attic in Richmond, Virginia. They’re grooving, rocking and shaking like a combo hasn’t grooved, rocked or shaked in quite some time.

True, it’s easy to spot traces of various names in this cosmic, spacey gumbo of soul, funk and country: some Beck, Willie Mitchell and Bon Iver here; Dr John, Allen Toussaint and Randy Newman there. But White isn’t intent on merely displaying a fondness for retro riffing and pastiches. He has the cop-on and wherewithall to make Big Inner a powerful, cool, blissful collection of laidback, soulful, full-bodied pop.

The opening track, One of These Days, is a strong example of where he’s coming from. The groove is light and soft-shoed – like something the Hi Studio could have coaxed out the speakers for Al Green – giving White’s lovely baritone the room and the momentum to take the song to the outer reaches.

Lyrically, White also delivers, with songs about living and dying, odes to dead relatives (Gone Away) and tracks about spiritual faith (Big Love). This lyrical richness, married to the beautiful, deep swing of the band makes for an album that will leave you swooning in its slipstream.

Download:One of These Days, Big Love, Brazos