EP Review: Dee White – ‘Southern Gentleman’ (Side A)

Dee White

This is a re-uploaded post from Swamp Opera. 

What a coincidence. Just two weeks ago, I saw Alan Jackson live in Canandaigua, New York. His opener was a guy by the name of Dee White. He was sort of quiet and didn’t talk much other than to introduce songs or say that his band was from Nashville. I scratched my head just figuring out his name. Did he say “Dean?” Is it just D. White? After his set and before I wrote my review of said show, I googled extensively just trying to find information on him. His music was good, and lo and behold, out of nowhere, here he comes now to release a brand new EP that serves as half of his debut album, Southern Gentlemen.

Now that we actually have some information in our hands, White’s actually got a pretty interesting backstory. First of all, this is the first time I’m covering an artist who’s younger than I am (it’s only a year’s age difference but I’m still starting to feel old). Onto White though, he’s an Alabama native signed to Dan Auerbach’s label, Easy Eye Sound and Warner Music Nashville. He’s been out on tour with the aforementioned Jackson as well as Ashley McBryde (who will appear on White’s debut album) and Alison Krauss (who appears on two tracks out of these five).

In addition, Harold Shedd, the music mogul responsible for signing Alabama, discovering Shania Twain and producing Reba McEntire’s first gold record, is the person who encouraged White to pursue music.

While I normally dislike covering EPs due to them usually leaving me with nothing much to say (as well as thinking they’re bad business moves), here, the EP is merely meant as an appetizer for White’s upcoming album. After several listens through, there’s definitely potential for White, as Southern Gentleman Side A showcases a bright young talent.

Auerbach’s production lends itself nicely to this project, with “Wherever You Go” having a nice swampy, bluesy edge and plenty of instrumentation to back it up. From the earthy banjo to the dusty harmonica play and steel guitar licks along with the addition of organ and electric guitar later on, the mix feels full without being cluttered or overbearing.

There’s also a good amount of variety to his sound as well. If I had to describe it in a nutshell, I’d say White shows traces of vintage country without making the mistake most “retro” artists do of making their records sound just like the way their heroes did (come on, we have improved technology for a reason). As noted before, the mixes feel full and lively enough to pull from the roots and look toward the future.

Vocally, White shows heavy traces of Roy Orbison in the way he presents himself. One knock you could make against White however is that he still sounds a bit shaky in some spots. That confidence will come in time, but it can also make tracks like the nostalgia number, “Bucket Of Bolts” or the ode to perseverance on “Crazy Man” not come through with the right amount of passion or believability.

Still, on both tracks, the production mix certainly carries a bit of that extra weight to make them enjoyable.

“Bucket Of Bolts” is certainly a fitting track for White at this point in his life. It reminisces on high school days, so already people who are sick of hearing these types of songs on country radio will raise their red flags. While the sentiment of just riding down with his friends to the water hole is a tad generic and not fleshed out quite enough, the sentiment is what really shines here, with White meditating on how he’s changed all these years. “The more I have, the more I need” he says as well as missing the simpler times when he was just thankful to be young.

The only pure misstep is “Tell The World I Do” which rips a page straight out of ’80s country music by oversaturating the mix with the bad echoed, atmospheric effects you’d usually hear in those songs. Granted, it’s understandable why they’re here. They do add a sweetness to the track, but the thing is the sweetness is laid on too thick with this track. The cloying lyrical nature makes this an all-around sappy closer.

On the other hand, “Rose Of Alabam” is something that truly showcases White’s potential more than anything. Everything works excellently on this song. The smoky piano filled with steel guitar licks and minor chords give an air of regret to this track about infidelity. The metaphors and imagery used to describe the unfolding of this track about desire are incredibly good, with an excellent chorus and hook to boot. If I can convince you to listen to just one song on this entire EP, it would be this one. I remember this being a highlight when he played it live, and the studio version is even better. White’s fragile tone also blends nicely with the song and gives it a real rawness to showcase his regret over the situation. The smoldering electric guitars and strings near the end really top everything off nicely.

Overall, while there are still some elements to smooth out with White’s sound (which can easily be smoothed out with time and experience anyway), there’s a lot of potential shown here, especially for someone as young as White is. Again, his sound has a nice variety of blues, classic-country and Nashville Sound to it to make it a unique mix, and the songwriting shines in certain spots. We’ll be hearing part two of this EP in January, and I personally can’t wait.

(6/10)

EP highlights: “Rose Of Alabam,” “Bucket Of Bolts,” “Crazy Man”

Producers: Dan Auerbach, David “Fergie” Ferguson

 

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