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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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For those of you who have been longing for that type of experimentation, which Lampchop majored upon in their greatest album "Nixon" (2000) then your search is complete. On this new album "Big Inner", out of the corner of some dark studio emerges 29 year musician Matthew E White who takes country, soul and R&B and serves them up in a big old stew which Kurt Wagner would warmly applaud. He uses the label "Blue Eyed Soul" and it is an intoxicating confection of sweet sounds and farm house spirituals played a big musical collective of musicians straining like greyhounds at the start to get going. White is a session musician by trade but more than this he has his own Spacebomb Records imprint and intends to use this with vision. Thus he harks back to the days of Stax records, has a recording studio in Richmond Virginia and a house band, with the idea being that artists signed to Spacebomb will utilise all these musical facilities including the session players on the spot.

On the evidence of "Big Inner" he has chosen his musical comrades, including a full horn and string section, with real care. They produce an album which has first class honours written all over it. It includes seven tracks all anchored by White's soulful almost spoken vocal and the sort of backdrop which labels like Stax and the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama used to patent. Opener "One of these days" sets a groove with a big rolling bass to provide the architecture but is never showy or booming. It relies on the growing rumble of horns, the interjection of the an occasional soulful guitar and White's slowly unfolding vocal teasing the song to its almost Southern gospel conclusion. Indeed religion is present on this album and clearly if it was good enough for Otis Redding then its good enough for White (who in turn must have borrowed that white suit on the cover from Eric Clapton's wardrobe circa 1973?) Next up the brilliant standout "Big love" alternatively is pure funk with a piano so wicked it should be exorcised. "Will you love me" references the melody of Joe South's "Games people play" with part of the lyric of Jimmy Cliff's "Too many rivers to cross". It will plant itself in your head like Japanese Knotweed and refuse to budge. It is a much more poignant ballad which follows in the shape of "Gone Away" where almost Randy Newman style hymn emerges, dedicated to the death of one of White's cousins. That said if there is a problem with the album it is that it rarely touches the Richter scale in terms of excitement and on this track the languid spell woven by White becomes wearing on the repeated spiritual refrain that closes the song. Much better is the Allen Toussaint shuffle of "Steady Pace" and the far more robust rootsy ballad "Hot Toddies" which ends with a throbbing jazzy rhythm workout.

The whole kit and caboodle is rounded off with the nearly 10 minute long "Brazos" that builds to a big funky ending, is imbued with overt religious imagery and encapsulates the many great elements of the album but also the odd tendency towards repetition. Whatever the case Matthew E White and Co have built an impressive soul mash up on "Big Inner" which harks back to the glory days of great American labels but throws in enough modernity to be highly engaging. Ultimately this is a gentle, subdued and fetching album by consummate musicians plying their songs with an underpinning ethic firmly located within the old school of mastering a musical trade with impeccable technique and expanding upon it. The "Big Inner" takes its soul stew and delivers on all the ingredients.
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For those of you who have been longing for that type of experimentation, which Lambchop majored upon in their greatest album "Nixon" (2000) then your search is complete. On this new album "Big Inner", out of the corner of some dark studio emerges 29-year musician Matthew E White who takes country, soul and R&B and serves them up in a big old stew which Kurt Wagner would warmly applaud. He uses the label "Blue Eyed Soul" and it is an intoxicating confection of sweet sounds and farm house spirituals played a big musical collective of musicians straining like greyhounds at the start to get going. White is a session musician by trade but more than this he has his own Spacebomb Records imprint and intends to use this with vision. Thus he harks back to the days of Stax records, has a recording studio in Richmond Virginia and a house band, with the idea being that artists signed to Spacebomb will utilise all these musical facilities including the session players on the spot.

On the evidence of "Big Inner," he has chosen his musical comrades, including a full horn and string section, with real care. They produce an album which has first class honours written all over it. It includes seven tracks all anchored by White's soulful almost spoken vocal and the sort of backdrop which labels like Stax and the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama used to patent. Opener "One of these days" sets a groove with a big rolling bass to provide the architecture but is never showy or booming. It relies on the growing rumble of horns, the interjection of the an occasional soulful guitar and White's slowly unfolding vocal teasing the song to its almost Southern gospel conclusion. Indeed religion is present on this album and clearly if it was good enough for Otis Redding then it's good enough for White (who in turn must have borrowed that white suit on the cover from Eric Clapton's wardrobe circa 1973?) Next up the brilliant standout "Big love" alternatively is pure funk with a piano so wicked it should be exorcised. "Will you love me" references the melody of Joe South's "Games people play" with part of the lyric of Jimmy Cliff's "Too many rivers to cross". It will plant itself in your head like Japanese Knotweed and refuse to budge. It is a much more poignant ballad which follows in the shape of "Gone Away" where almost Randy Newman style hymn emerges, dedicated to the death of one of White's cousins. That said if there is a problem with the album it is that it rarely touches the Richter scale in terms of excitement and on this track the languid spell woven by White becomes wearing on the repeated spiritual refrain that closes the song. Much better is the Allen Toussaint shuffle of "Steady Pace" and the far more robust rootsy ballad "Hot Toddies" which ends with a throbbing jazzy rhythm workout.

The whole kit and caboodle is rounded off with the nearly 10 minutes long "Brazos" that builds to a big funky ending, is imbued with overt religious imagery and encapsulates the many great elements of the album but also the odd tendency towards repetition. Whatever the case Matthew E White and Co have built an impressive soul mash-up​ on "Big Inner" which harks back to the glory days of great American labels but throws in enough modernity to be highly engaging. Ultimately this is a gentle, subdued and fetching album by consummate musicians plying their songs with an underpinning ethic firmly located within the old school of mastering a musical trade with impeccable technique and expanding upon it. The "Big Inner" takes its soul stew and delivers on all the ingredients.
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on 9 February 2013
This is a proper album, like albums used to be back when they were good!
What do I mean by that?
Well, this album represents a level of accomplishment and craftsmanship that is sorely lacking from much of contemporary music. This is not some hipster warbling in their bedroom to a guitar they can't play properly, all bunged through some plug-ins they downloaded for free. The skill and musicianship is evident from the first bars... and the fact it was all recorded in a single 2 week session belies the real achievement here.
The songs are sweet and soulful, tinged with a touch of old-timey Gospel faith. The arrangements and production are impeccable. It's not the style of music I generally seek out or listen to, but the overall effect is jaw-dropping.
This is music that achieves that most difficult and ephemeral of goals - it genuinely makes you feel something.
What you feel is, of course, up to you, but I defy you to be left cold by it.
It's very contemporary to chatter about whether the album format is dead in this modern world of cherry picking individual tracks, but a work like this one just confirms why the album is still the best way for an artist to present their music. The sustained effect and atmosphere over 40-odd minutes is cumulative.
Just buy it and enjoy it before it gets inevitably ruined by overexposure on some stupid ad or something.
Quality!
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on 13 August 2015
I bought thus purely on the strength of the reviews and while it has it's moments I've never really taken to it. The arrangements are nice but the whole thing feels so soporific at times it feels like it's going to collapse under it's own laid backness. I find his incredibly mannered vocal style gets wearying very quickly and it just sounds like an inferior retread of something like Dr John, without really bringing anything new to the party.
Despite me praising the arrangements I wonder if this would have worked better if it had been a bit more sparse and direct sounding. At times it's like wading through aural treacle-White doesn't sound like he can stay awake and I had difficulty doing the same while listening.
Big Love however is ace and the standout moment of this album by a country mile.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 January 2013
How many of these records do you own?

* On the Beach - Neil Young
* For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
* Music From Big Pink - The Band
* The Band - The Band
* Nixon - Lambchop
* Hot Shots II - The Beta Band

If the answer's more than three, then 'Big Inner' will be right up your street. It has touches of the strung-out melancholia of Neil Young and Bon Iver, it has a flavour of the Beta Band's narcoleptic drone-rock, it has plenty of the 'white-boy-channelling-Curtis-Mayfield' string-soaked soul of Lambchop and, more than anything, it's drenched in the rich southern horns and country comforts of The Band's first two records. 'Big Inner' could easily have been been recorded in Big Pink!

Matthew E White balances his influences astutely. Musically, this is lovely stuff: tastefully arranged and crisply produced. Vocally, he's a bit of a mumbler, and he buries himself way down in the mix, but that's no bad thing, as this just draws the listener more deeply into the record's warm after-hours ambience.

Not quite the full five stars, as I'm not totally convinced that Mr White ever really breaks free of his influences to give us something that's completely his own. But, with that small caveat, this is still a highly listenable and very promising debut. Big Inner's luck? Time will tell..
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on 2 May 2013
Did you ever here about that great lost album from 1971? It is so obscure that even critics and publications have never mentioned it. They simply didn't know about it. But how could they NOT know about it? It was recorded by a super group featuring The Band, Curtis Mayfield, Harry Nilsson and The Staple Singers. They called it Big Inner and just to deceive everyone still further, they put a big hairy white guy on the front cover and pretended his name was Matthew E. White. Crazy huh.

Seriously though, this album has all those elements and more in the stew. It is at once uplifting and gentle, funky and beautiful, soulful and jazzy and everything in between. It's not too short, it's not too long. It's just right.

Well done Matthew E White.
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on 30 January 2014
i nearly really like this album,its genre and style are right up my street,but,and a big but for me is his vocals,much too mumbly and low fi,his voice only suits a few of the songs here,mostly though i am left wishing he had a better voice,one that can sing instead of talk/hum.
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on 1 February 2013
I bought the album on the strength of glowing reviews on both the Uncut and Pitchfork websites, admittedly that can sometimes be risky. From there I checked him out on the net and really liked what I heard, so ordered it just over a week ago and haven't stop playing it.

It's great from start to stop, 'Will You Love Me' is really infectious, beautiful. Being Scottish and seeing a track titled 'Hot Toddies' made me smile, and hearing the track made me smile even more. Then finishing a relatively short album with a fantastic 9 minute track 'Brazos' was just the ticket.

The album for me is perfect, musicians of the past spring to mind when I listen to the album which I'll not name, as I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of Matthew E. White in the years to come.

Ignore the "review/rant" from Nigel Wooliscroft who gave it one star, it couldn't be further from the truth. It's baseless trolling at it's worst.

P.S - I'm still listening to this album which I've had for over a month and reckon it'll be my album of the year.
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on 19 February 2013
Mr White's debut is a cross section of all things great in music; lush strings, rising horns, gospel tinges and some wonderful arranging, guitar work and of course the voice. Many influences to these ears ranging from trippy country soul/R n B/Curtis Mayfield to Madchester/Primal Scream lovelyness! Only seven tracks, but a deep, full and spiritual album.
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on 28 January 2013
Stick with this album, give it 5 or 6 listens, and you start to realise why Matthew White and this album is receiving great reviews everywhere.
The reviews reference Muscle Shoals, Southern Funk, Curtis soul, and on first listen you may expect this album to jump out and grab you, but it's alot more subtle and rewarding than that.
After the 3rd or 4th listen you begin to hear the horns more, the amazing string arrangements come to the fore, and the groove is always there, just under the surface.
6th listen it's on constant repeat, and you are in, it's a keeper.
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