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The White Album (Jeff White)

Jeff White
The White Album
Rounder CD 0385

It takes a lot of confidence to name your solo recording The White Album even if your name really is White. This may not be the magnum opus that the Beatles' White Album was, but Jeff White has assembled a powerhouse cast to put a lot of great music in one place. White is a talented singer and guitar player, and his version of The White Album has an unexpectedly traditional and old-timey flavor, given that White currently plays with reigning country music king Vince Gill and is an alumnus of Alison Krauss & Union Station.

Peter Wernick's banjo and Jeff Guernsey's fiddle on Cold, Cold Heart set the pace for White and Gill's tight vocal duet, pumped by Mike Bub's driving bass. White shows he can sing just about any type of song, ranging from the lovely waltz I Never Know, where he's joined by Gill and Krauss on a stunning trio, to his own Little Lies, straight bluegrass with the blues intact. Old Plank Road is a rollicking, old-timey showpiece, with Guernsey's fiddle shuffle playing off Wernick's banjo while bluegrass gets the full treatment on Leavin' Town and Little Joe, an old chestnut which White gives a fresh, new life

We don't get nearly enough new murder ballads in bluegrass these days, but the chilling ballad Cabin Among the Trees shows White's skill as a songwriter, one of six songs on The White Album either written or co-written by White. When The Night Is Near is the perfect closer for the recording - a soft, lovely lullaby leaving us with high hopes for White's next recording.

Of special note on The White Album is Vince Gill's return to bluegrass music. Not to say that the recording is in any way dominated by Gill but, in a delightful swap of roles, he sings all the tenor vocals, plays mandolin on all but one cut, even contributes the killer gospel song All Prayed Up (with some wicked Scruggs-style, finger-picked guitar by Guernsey) and re-establishes his credentials as one of the most monumentally talented musicians and singers ever to come out of the bluegrass genre. That Gill and White have played together for a long time is shown in their tight, almost brother-like harmonies.

Jeff White has set a high standard. This is traditional acoustic music at its very best - hard-driving rhythms, high lonesome harmonies and impressive instrumental prowess. It gets my highest recommendation.

(Rounder Records Corp., One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140)
Published: 
Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, June 1997. Used with permission.