Tony Joe White “The Train I’m On”

The Train I'm On

Tony Joe White’s The Train I’m On is one of those records that is just too damn good to be kept a secret. Keeping real on what may be his finest moment, the LP is a sweet and languid roots rock triumph.

“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 CharlesLonnie MackDale 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 “The Family” and raucous percussion with hyperactive jaw harp push “Beouf River Road” where tunes like “Sidewalk Hobo” need little more than a guitar and that voice. 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.

It’s true “Polk Salad Annie,” TJW’s huge 1969 hit, kept the paychecks coming in, but this kind of record is how Tony Joe ought to be celebrated.

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“I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Sepia Tone | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1972 | Warner | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • Aaee

    Hey, I really like this one. I have to go through the rest of your recent reviews and ask for a mix for Christmas.

  • dk

    I found this one at the flea market recently – two big thumbs up!

  • A few months ago, I revisited my Tony Joe White albums and found The Train I’m On to be the least engaging. Gone are the lightning strikes that peppered his earliest work, and I think he wrote stronger, more fascinating songs on records like Homemade Ice Cream and his self-titled LP. Can I listen to The Train I’m On from start to finish?Of course. Tony Joe’s voice alone is worth the price of admission. But there are other records from his earlier years I’d prefer to savor.

  • Len Liechti

    TJW is a true original of the bayou and an absolutely honest from-the-gut performer. I saw him play solo on Ready Steady Go on TV in 1968 with just his Gibson 330 and a wah-wah pedal, and he stole the whole show from the big bands. The only other artist who can give him a run for his money in this genre is Dr John. I love early Creedence, but they’re ersatz swamp rock from LA even though they do it so well on Bayou Music (must do a full review of that album somewhen). I don’t have The Train I’m On, but I do have the excellent Warner Archives retrospective from 1993 featuring the best of his Monument and WB work 1968-73, which includes five tracks from this album including “I’ve Got A Thing” and “Even Trolls”. My own solo set includes a medley of Polk Salad Annie and Roosevelt And Ira Lee: four chords never sounded better. As I say, a true original, and strongly recommended.

  • Dewi Fraunhofer

    Have you heard the single version of I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby ? Same track, but given a very different psychedelic type mix, with lotsa reverb. Check it out.

  • Aidan

    Thanks for this. My Father introduced me to Tony Joe White when I was a kid, I remember him yelling Polk Salad Annie to a guy playing covers of crap songs in a bar once. I loved the story of how trolls love rock and roll. We were lucky enough to go see him in a tiny bar in Nashville a couple of years ago, he was incredible, very cool distinct rough guitar style, and the obvious voice. We got to speak to him, very cool guy. People were dancing around and my buddy got a dance with Whites sister. Any way Ill quit going on about a good time you didn’t have. No one like Tony Joe White. Cheers!

  • Matt B

    Thanks for the tip. I just found a copy of it, and it is everything you say.

  • Slap

    In the liner notes for the 2010 Rhino Handmade release of “That On The Road Look” — his 1970 live album that was thought to be lost — TJ talks about how, during a joint European tour with Creedence, he and Duck Dunn would regularly chide Fogerty with “WE’LL show you REAL swamp….”

    But to any fans out there, BUY the live album. Tony with keys, drums and Duck Dunn on bass, confident as hell, peeling paint with his wah-wah work. Superb renditions of Polk Salad, Roosevelt and Ira Lee, Willie and Laura Mae, a stinging version of Stormy Monday, and a breathtaking version of Rainy Night in Georgia. Regarding the latter, if you’ve only heard the Brook Benton version — a radio classic, to be sure — TJ’s must be heard. This live version is that stripped-down band, no strings, no orchestra — it’s intimate, and soulful as hell.

    It’s a great pity this got mislaid at the time — I could easily imagine most of these tracks becoming early ’70s FM radio staples, sandwiched between Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’ and Whipping Post….

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