Tony Joe White’s The Train I’m On is one of those records that are just too damn good to be kept a secret. Keeping it oh so real and raw on what may be his finest moment, the LP is a sweet and languid roots rock triumph.
Give me acoustic guitar and the bass drum, that’s all it needs to hook me. “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” is sparse and smooth, fitted with just enough details to keep your ears addicted to the feel—Elvis himself took this one to number 5. Like contemporaries Bobby Charles, Lonnie Mack, Dale Hawkins, and Link Wray, Tony Joe was one of those swamp-rockers digging up roots in the 70s. On Train, his second album for Warner Bros, the production is stripped though not to the bone. A full band arrangement fills up just about every track, but thankfully you can always hear the spine. Harmonica, piano, and organ assist on dynamic ballad “The Family,” and raucous percussion and hyperactive jaw harp push along “Beouf River Road” wheras tunes like “Sidewalk Hobo” need little more than a guitar and that voice…that velvet voice. Keeping it interesting, the slightly absurd “Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll” approaches some grimy alley-funk, while “As The Crow Flies” and “300 Pounds of Hongry” are as muddy as I’ll ever need a groove to be.