Musician and crate-digger extraordinaire Jeb Loy Nichols tells the stories behind the stops on his musical railroad, from a deep friendship with Adrian Sherwood and the heroes of Muscle Shoals that led to a love of bluegrass, country, reggae and soul
Tony Joe White - Homemade Ice Cream
Every time I listen to a Tony Joe White record the world is made just a little bit better. A bit more strange, a bit wilder. A bit less dull. I've been listening to them since I was a teenager, living in Texas nearly forty years ago. Listening to Tony Joe White has made me, in some large way, who I am. The first Tony Joe White record I ever bought was called Tony Joe. It was on Monument, the same Nashville label that released Joe Simon and Larry Jon Wilson. Tony Joe was on the cover, wearing a flat brimmed hat; on the back he was riding a horse. It cost me fifty cents. I hurried home, put the record on and the first Tony Joe White track I ever heard was 'Stud Spider'. The very first. I put the needle on and there it was. Side one, track one. It leapt out. I was mystified. What intrigued me was the sound of it. The ooze, the seep, the puddled noise of it. This was music that rose up from the soil, a gulf storm that blew in quickly, leaving the world bathed and battered. It's allegiance to the South, to the Country, to the Land, was complete. I could have picked any number of Tony Joe White records. I chose Homemade Ice Cream because it contains some of my favourite moments. The instrumental title track, the opening bars of 'Did Somebody Make A Fool Out Of You', the perfection of 'For Ol' Times Sake', the unexpectedness of 'Mother Earth'. It's also the record that, for me, sums up the Country Got Soul compilations I made with Ross Allen.
These compilations all began due to a chance remark by Dan Del Santo. I was over in his house on the East Side. His wife was there too and I was what? A teenager, just thirteen, and I felt small. But to sit with Del Santo was magic. He filled the room and I watched. Playing his Gibson L-25 guitar. Some old blues kind of tune. The house being a little run down but agreeable. He sat and strummed and then later said something about Tony Joe White. Dan Del Santo was a local Texan hipster / musician, he was the coolest man I'd ever met, he was the source of all wisdom. He told me to pay attention to certain southern songwriters, people like Donnie Fritts, Dan Penn and Delaney Bramlett. He played me record after record and I was hooked. Twenty years later I was living in London and compiled the first volume of Country Got Soul. Ross Allen found a home for it and it was released to critical success. Rough Trade named it compilation of the month (twice), magazines and DJs loved it and it found a group of hardcore admirers.