t was a little awkward while GRAMMY Artistic Director Scott Goldman interviewed Tony Joe White in the intimate Clive Davis Theater because Goldman talks fast, and White speaks in a slow Southern drawl. Although a little uncomfortable at times, the audience was treated to stories about recording with Lightnin' Hopkins, traveling the globe to record with Tina Turner and attempting to teach Elvis a few blues licks on the guitar. White may have taken a while to tell these tales, but they were always worth the wait.
Better still, though, were White's performances. Playing electric guitar and harmonica and sometimes accompanied by a drummer, White played a few songs from his new blues-inspired album "Bad Mouthin'," which included a Nick Cave-worthy somber take on Elvis' hit "Heartbreak Hotel." He, of course, closed with his own swampy version of "Polk Salad Annie." White is a skilled and expressive guitarist and didn't really need a full band to shine. Sometimes he even got really loud, which was unexpectedly fine.
White remains special to music fans because - even with all his songwriting success - he remains an authentic artist. He explained during the interview segment how much of his latest album was recorded in his barn, where rain on the roof and animal sounds can sometimes be heard. He also recorded many of these tracks with just one take. He's old school till the end.
Elvis may never have learned to play the blues, but Tony Joe White sure did. He made that abundantly clear during this satisfying evening.