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Known for the swamp-rock classic “Polk Salad Annie” and the beautiful “Rainy Night in Georgia,” Tony Joe White left behind a cache of voice-and-guitar demos when he died in 2018. Now, those stirring home recordings have been adeptly fleshed out with full band accompaniment overseen by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach to create Smoke from the Chimney, a triumphant epitaph to a brilliant career. With his deep-as-a-well singing and unpretentious yet insightful songs, White was a wonderfully earthy artist who captured the passion, sadness and humor of real life like few others, gracefully blending blues, country, funk and rock into one soulful stew. While posthumous touch-ups to orphaned songs can lead to off-key results, Auerbach – who’s proven himself a sympathetic producer of performers both young (Marcus King) and old (Robert Finley) – does his subject proud, deftly enhancing the source material without drawing undue attention to himself. Whether it’s the greasy tall tale “Bubba Jones,” the wistful title track or the nostalgic toe-tapper “Del Rio, You’re Making Me Cry,” Smoke from the Chimney is a worthy addition to a unique body of work. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.
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