David White - Long Roots

Footpath Records

Throughout the annals of music history there is a laundry list of inspired, folk-poets who seem to have an inherent and incurable ability to weave spirited stories through just a voice, an acoustic guitar and deft instrumentation. Nashville-based singer-songwriter David White has that aura of legacy on LONG ROOTS, his debut record. Not a full-time musician, Plano, Texas-born White arrived in Nashville via San Antonio and Winston-Salem and is now a paediatrician in Brentwood, near Nashville. Listening to this impressive album, it’s quite inconceivable that he doesn’t earn a living making music … so are the peculiarities of the so-called music business.
A delightful palate-cleanser full of sweet, memorable moments, LONG ROOTS demonstrates David White’s extraordinary capacity to mould songs of haunting beauty and sweetness, songs that make sense around the fireplace or on the open road. They are like a re-awakening, a groggy hello to a forgotten world, or a blissful hangover full of melancholy love and beautiful promise. He is a storyteller of the highest calibre, letting his delicate vignettes unfold to show the wonder that lies in the mundane. This is never more evident than with album opener, Midnight Shift At The Maplewood Methodist Church, a simple tale of a caring and humble church janitor who prays each night for the troubled congregation. Co-written with Ashley Gorley, it’s an understated masterpiece brought to life by a delicate acoustic arrangement utilising the musical skills of White’s acoustic guitar, Jerry Douglas’ Dobro duetting softly with Stuart Duncan’s fiddle, Chris Thile’s mandolin dropping in and out along with Paul Franklin’s gently played pedal steel and Bryan Sutton’s always intuitive guitar work with White’s vocal supported by the ethereal harmonies of Joanna Janet and Dan Tyminski. 

Somehow, this unassuming singer-songwriter succeeds in coming up with ten more equally awe-inspiring songs. His lyrics and slice-of-life scenarios are filled with honest detail, helping to bring his emotionally complex characters to life in songs, such as the young Russian sailor trapped in a submarine and facing death in Rescue. Inspired by the tragic sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in 2000, this is a heart-rending story told with great delicacy and humanity. A wickedly sharp observer of the human condition, he uses a Texas swing arrangement for the brush-off yarn I Get The Hint, a playful song that could have fallen straight out of the Lyle Lovett songbook. He also delves back into his own childhood memories with Wheels and My Mississippi. The latter is a fond reminisce of a playground creek, where as a child he was transported to a world of dreamt adventures we can all relate to. Wheels is on the surface about getting a first bike, but as the lyric unfurls you realise it’s all about the freedom you have when you have wheels—a bike, a car—enabling you to travel fast and furious and all the independence that allows you, regardless of the consequences.

His songwriting is sublime and touches on subject matter which affects us all—love, love lost and found, love found and lost again.  His philosophy of finding hope when weary comes to the fore on If You Ever Need A Friend, in which he offers a helping hand to a long-time friend. Where others less talented might get all mushy, he is masculine yet gentle on the romantic Love’s Been Good To Me; his deep Lone Star state roots wrap around each texture and phrase, his lyrical manner is poignant and his singing is patient and evocative,

A thoroughly delightful find, David White is one of those rare ones that’s singing right to you and hitting all the right chords along the way. A warm, affecting collection of musical storytelling, LONG ROOTS is a haunting and layered oeuvre that begs to be played again and again. A deep, thoughtful writer with a keen ear for instrumentation and arrangements that lend themselves more to a quiet room, rather than the Texas roadhouses of his formative years, just don’t try to categorise David White or his music. Simply put, at his core he is a top shelf singer-songwriter and this stuff is going to touch you wherever you live.