In a recent feature, a Bo White music colleague paid him respect by suggesting he could make a record in any style and own it: "He doesn't callously borrow from source material, but internalizes it, reflects it, and makes it into something new and personal."
As if to prove the point, White's new 7-track mini-LP, Adornment, shows off his versatility with impressive concision. Not only is the music stylistically diverse, White also plays everything but for some string arrangements by Ben Kennedy. Oh, yeah — he also wrote six-sevenths of the music in one day, taking full advantage of a keyboard he was shepherding.
Adornment kicks off with a jaw-droppingly great soul track. Violin and cello at the outset of "National Love & Other Tyrants" shade it in vintage Nixon-era Lambchop colors, but when the wah-wah guitar kicks in the tender love narrative shows its Curtis Mayfield roots in a different manner entirely.
"Sly Dutch Youth Musics" veers between dubby syncopation and Jens Lekman-like Euro-soul, as White chastises shit-talking foreigners without sounding jingoistic — "Watch your mouth when you speak of our culture/I'm not sure why you should care." And on "Bested," the bassist goes lo-fi deep dub, calling to mind another eclectic N.C. songwriter, Seth Kauffman.
Other tracks conjure different moods. The nervy choogle of "Lacy Disbelieving" bounces between early VU and Magnetic Fields, its two minutes representing one of White's poppiest endeavors. Like that track, "Finery" rides an insistent beat toward "one more big crescendo," but over the swirling keys White slips in field recordings tweaked by scratching distortions to shake things up.
White's bass skills figure prominently, naturally, especially on "Slack Keys," the one number originally intended for his guitar-less Y Su Orquesta configuration. Here, the bass does both rhythmic and solo duty as White's voice conveys brittle Arthur Russell delicacy, accented only by sparse piano and percussion.
By the time the piano chords and Kennedy's staccato strings introduce "Anglaise," a song that feels both epic and intimate, you're blissfully dizzy from the array of styles — or maybe it's the singular songwriting voice tying them all together that's making you swoon.