Tony Joe White, Bad Mouthin’ (Yep Roc Records) ***

TONY Joe White's death from a heart attack on October 24 casts a tombstone shadow over what turns out to be his last record. The charismatic Louisianan remains best known for his gritty tales of the South. Polk Salad Annie was a hit and recorded by Elvis no less. White said the one constant in his career was keeping it real. Bad Mouthin’ is as real as it gets, a stark blues album that on first inspection is barely there at all. No sweeping strings or peppy horn sections, nor that blend of country and southern soul that hit big in the 1970s. Mostly just low thrummed acoustic guitar and an even deeper voice, as White revisits songs he first fell in love with among the cotton at Oak Grove. Lightnin’ Hopkins' Awful Dreams is a quiet standout and he really takes possession of John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom. The record, and White’s career, ends with a funereal Heartbreak Hotel, as downbeat a close as is possible.

Paul Rhodes