Run Out Groove and APO Fill the Swamp With Tony Joe and Warren Storm

These two releases, one culled from a 2006 Rhino Tony Joe White compilation and the other a new one from APO (an Analogue Productions label) are naturals for a linked review.

White, who passed away at 75 from a heart attack on October 24th 2018, famously described his music (before he signed his first recording contract) as “kinda swampy”. White grew up harvesting cotton and corn in a small northeastern Louisiana town close to Mississippi and Arkansas. One day his father brought home a Lightnin’ Hopkins album and that was that.

White kicked around Georgia (he later wrote “Rainy Night in Georgia”) in the mid-sixties driving a dump truck by day and playing honky tonks at night. Inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” he abandoned imitating Elvis and Hopkins and wrote more about his growing up poor in rural Louisiana, including “Polk Salad Annie”.

He drove to Nashville bypassing Memphis his original stopping point and signed to Monument Records (great story but not for here). His soulful debut album Black and White (Monument SLP 18114) produced a hit single with “Polk Salad Annie” but the then daring interracial “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” proved too hot at the time for American radio. Instead, White first hit big in France (another great story not for here).

The debut album contained six originals on side one and an “interesting” mix of covers on the second side: “Who’s Making Love”, “Scratch My Back”, “Little Green Apples”, “Wichita Lineman”, and “Look of Love” (sic). Sidemen on the album included David Briggs, Norbert Putnam and other “Nashville Cats”.

White made many albums, including a few great ones for Warner Brothers including Home Made Ice Cream (AAPP 2708-45) reissued AAA by Analogue Productions and 100% worth owning.

White never “souled out”, maintaining his swampy essence and warm, homey “Elvis-y” voice even as he latched on to evolving musical trends. The result was a series of fascinating musical hybrids and hits plus covers for Tina Turner, Mark Knopfler and others.

This triple LP set of late ‘60s/early ‘70s “rarities” from Run Out Groove, culled from Swamp Music: The Complete Monument Records, a 2006 multi-CD Rhino set, may not seem like a good way to be introduced to White’s music, but it is: it’s simply produced and intimately recorded. You get to know the artist, and honestly every track will suck you into White’s unique “swampy” world. You’ll realize why his records didn’t fit into any record store music bin, other than one reserved for Tony Joe White. He will keep you engaged and entertained for all six sides. His cover of Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” on side six will grab you.

Despite the full sized picture of a reel of recording tape from one of the sessions, no doubt this was culled from the CD box set or the files used to produce it. Compared to an original Black and White it’s clear the compilers were faithful to the original RCA Studios sound but the “there” isn’t “there”. Don’t be foolish and let that stop you! This is a great set and a more useful and entertaining set than is the original Black and White (though that’s good too!). Perfectly pressed at Record Industry, Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Taking the World, By Storm

83 year old drummer Warren “Storm” Schexnider is, as the liner notes proclaim, a “Louisiana legend” and an originator of the R&B, C&W,Cajun and Creole musical blend known as “swamp music” or “swamp pop”.

Though he recorded for numerous labels and released many singles, they were regional, not national hits and Storm is clearly also a “regional” celeb. But what a region!

This record, according to the producer Yvette Landry, was “…an accident waiting to happen.” Storm walked into a restaurant where Landry has a weekly gig and at the time was on stage. She’d just released an album that included “I Need Somebody Bad”, one of his signature songs. Her bandmate, who’d played for more than a dozen years with Storm broke into it forcing her to sing it.

After the show Storm approached with compliments and asked for a copy of Landry’s album. The next day she brought one over to his place where on the walls she saw photos of Storm with Willie, with Elvis and Ray Price, among others.

The result of the encounter was first the book “Taking the World, by Storm—a conversation with Warren “Storm” Schexnider, The Godfather of Swamp Pop” (available at the University of Louisiana website, and later after considering re-issuing some of his older recordings, this new one, produced “old school” live to 2 track analog tape at Maurice, Louisiana’s Dockside Studios.

In addition to the core band of locals—Eric Adock (piano), Roddie Romero (electric guitar), Derek Huston (saxophone), Chris French (upright bass) and Gary Usie (drums), the producer called on Louisiana native singer/songwriter and big Storm fan Marc Broussard as well as slide guitar specialist Sonny Landreth, now living in Louisiana and Beau Thomas on fiddle, Richard Comeaux on pedal steel and on saxophone on a few tracks Willie “Tee” Trahan who’s played for 30 years with Storm in various bands.

The line-up set (with Broussard “phoning in” his part), the group went into the studio to record. Saxophonist Huston suggested Storm tackle John Fogerty’s “Long As I Can See the Light”, which he’d never before sung but he was up for trying. Someone suggested how cool it would be if Fogerty himself could handle a verse. Storm said in the ‘80s he’d recorded a video with Fogerty. A call was made and Fogerty said he’d be “…honored to be a part of the project.”

So while the record is mostly AAA, three tunes (“Long as I Can See the Light”, “Mathilda” [Broussard’s vocals ‘phoned in’] and “Tennessee Blues” [not sure who’s calling home])are ADA, with the live to two track on those tracks digitized at high resolution, the guest parts added and the results mixed back down to analog so cutting reels could be assembled and continuity maintained.

Trust me when the opener “Long as I Can See the Light” begins you won’t care how it was recorded. Mr. Storm (or Mr. Schexnider, however you wish to call him) does not sound like an 82 year old. No way. He owns the mournful, inspirational Fogerty penned tune and not even Fogerty’s own inserted verse diminishes (or matches) the power of the old guy’s performance.

Think Fats Domino and you get much of the picture. This is the real stuff. Add some pedal steel and fiddle on the first side’s closer “Tennessee Blues” and the atmosphere moves towards the dreamy, but most of it mirrors the familiar rhythms and deep happy sax/piano grooves that first appeared unquestioned in the 50s on teen radios: Fats, Frankie Ford, Lee Dorsey, Chris Kenner, et.al. epitomized here by “Lonely Nights” (with augmented guitar) and especially “Let the Four Winds Blow”.

Topping all of that is the musical celebration of Warren Storm Schexnider that seeps through the entire joyful set. Now’s the time for music that lifts the spirits and here’s some that does just that! Mr. Schexnider is in fine voice here, soaring to hit all of the high notes and clearly enjoying the adulation coming from all of the participants. The energy kind of saps as side two rolls on, but on "Prisoner's Song" the singer adds surprising color to the sunset of this classic regional genre.

Same with the sound. Live to 2 track analog sound pleases the ears at low levels and no matter how loud you crank it. Go high, go low, have a party with this album of honest music making (If I could rate these records separately for sound this one would be up at least a notch to "noine" bordering on 10). Mastered from tape by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound, pressed at QRP and packaged in Stoughton “Tip-on” gatefold jacket, this is no doubt the artist’s most deluxe outing. Better late than never, thanks to Executive Producer Chad Kassem, the audiophile community’s Alan Lomax. Perfectly pressed at QRP, Salina Kansas, USA.

COMMENTS
Steve Edwards's picture

that Polk Salad Annie is the only exposure many folks have had to Tony Joe White. While it is a classic tune, he has done so much more great work.
I completely concur with Michael's assessment of the Homemade Ice Cream AAA reissue by AP; it is analogue warmth at its finest.
I look forward to exploring both of these projects.

mraudioguru's picture

...released "Collected" by Tony Joe White. Limited, numbered on white vinyl. Although it is sold out, a black vinyl version is still available.

https://www.musiconvinyl.com/catalog/tony-joe-white/collected#.XnuGyYhKiM8

Hackmartian's picture

If you haven't heard it yet, the live album That On The Road Look is possibly the best thing Tony Joe ever cut. It was recorded to multitrack while he was on tour supporting CCR and was supposed to be released on Warner Brothers in the early 70s, but was shelved at the time. Rhino/Handmade finally released it on CD and Real Gone Music released it on vinyl earlier this year. To me, it's TJW at his purest. Having Duck Dunn on bass doesn't hurt, either.

davip's picture

I've been waiting 6 months now for the hopeless folks at Run-Out Groove to answer my query about the analogue/digital provenance of their 'Until The End Of The World' LP release, and all I get is excuses about the reply coming 'any day now'. Frankly, with this sort of joke approach to customers they can swivel for my £...

Michael Fremer's picture
I have that here and I have the original German single LP with fewer tracks. In the press kit from Warner Brothers that came with the CD release it talks about getting "the tape" from Lou Reed, but assembling a master from all of the various sources makes it pretty certain that the double LP was cut from a digital assembly. Anything else would be crazy-costly. The best part though is that most if not all of the tracks were produced for and are available only on in this package...
jmcox00's picture

I purchased "taking the world by storm" a few weeks ago from AP and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with his music before - now I love him. His version of "Last Man Standing" (not on this album) is incredibly moving. In my case I thank Chad for the introduction (and for so many great pressings these days). And thanks as always for the review Michael.

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