Big Inner

Big Inner

The second decade of the 21st century has brought on a grip of independent singer/songwriters inspired by Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. But Richmond, Va.–based Matthew E. White might be the only one who's equally influenced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters. White has previously collaborated with The Mountain Goats, Ken Vandermark, Megafaun, Justin Vernon, Sharon Van Etten, and Fight the Big Bull (an avant-jazz band that he formerly fronted), and his solo debut album, Big Inner, plays with the hushed cool of an old J.J. Cale record. “One of These Days” sets the tone for an incredibly impressive seven-song mini-album. The track's vintage instrument tones sound teleported from a mid-'60s Stax soul recording—albeit one played with hushed volumes and heavy-lidded tempos. “Big Love” follows, with skronky saxophone and muted orchestrations as White channels equal parts Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Donny Hathaway. “Brazos” closes like an old Curtis Mayfield ballad, replete with a lilting brass section that plays as if the musicians just awoke. Throughout Big Inner, White’s restrained croon never sounds affected.


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