What’s that line Cat Stevens/Rod Stewart/Sheryl Crow used to sing, “The first cut is the deepest?” Well, that seems to be the case here. The first cut on Tony Joe White’s 21st album, Deep Cuts really slices the listener open with its gut bucket groove. The swamp funkified guitar licks of the appropriately entitled “Set the Hook” grab one’s insides with the promise of nasty good times to come. It’s the best track of the ten on the disc, and one of four stellar instrumentals. White’s accompanied by his son Jody who provides digital and analog beats, loops, and whatnot to update the sound.
The songs with lyrics are familiar tracks that have been recorded previously to a better effect, basically because their concerns have dated. For example, White’s splendid, understated composition about black and white poor folks in the South was timely back in the late ’60s, but as White says himself, “that was another place and another time.” The same could be said of cuts like “Soul Francisco”, “High Sheriff of Calhoun County”, and “Roosevelt and Ira Lee”. The versions here aren’t bad, but somewhat superfluous.