In a period where some artists are looking for the new, the cool and the hype, some others go back to the classics. Matthew E. White has come out of the blue with Big Inner, a psychedelic New Weird America album, that rediscovers the roots of American music.
The spiritual and southern vibes of Big Inner can be easily traced back: White was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Christian missionaries. The album, recorded in the attic of White’s house in Richmond, is the first work by Spacebomb, an old-school production entity and record label. Everything about Spacebomb screams tradition: they have a house band composed of White, bassist Cameron Ralston and drummer Pinson Chanselle and they describe themselves as being “founded on old models, combining the creative structures and recording techniques of great record labels of the 20th century with the DIY revolution of the last 40 years and the current digital music phenomenon.” Big Inner is released by Domino on the 21st of January, but meanwhile you can have a listen to the whole album on Matthew E. White‘s YouTube channel or stream the title track below.
Unless you are a big fan of and expert in Richmond’s indie scene, Big Inner will come as a surprise. In the wake of some other American folk artists like Vetiver, Bon Iver and Megafaun, Matthew E. White rediscovers the traditional sounds that make up the history of American music. He combines echoes of ’70s soul, psychedelic country rock and funk. Big Inner can be definitely considered a tribute to pianist Randy Newman, one of White’s favourite artists. His talent as a jazz arranger and guitarist, along with the excellent choice of instrumentation (horns, strings and choir), give Big Inner the air of a timeless album and, paradoxically, make it already feel a classic. The gospel-like lyrics tell us stories of love and death, seeking and finding – traditional themes that every singer-songwriter has tackled at least once.
Matthew E. White is a skilled storyteller who brings back to the surface the essence of American folk music. If you are a nostalgic for the good old days, when music was played using “real” instruments and house bands reached No. 1 on US Billboard charts, Big Inner will not disappoint you.