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Woman on the verge?
“Sweetheart” has become Sarah White’s signature song. Written in 2004 and first pressed into digital wax that same year on the You’re It EP, “Sweetheart” was recently named Best Song in the 2007 Mountain Stage NewSong Contest. To capitalize on this success, it has been recorded again on a new, self-released EP called, you guessed it, Sweetheart.
|Listen to "Sweetheart" from Sarah White‘s Sweetheart EP:
Gone is the hokey double-tracked vocal and Johnny Cash-like country bass line of the original version. Given here a sunlight-on-winter-ice kind of gleam by producer Roderick Coles, “Sweetheart” is all slowburn, like an OxyContin-addled, hillbilly Rimbaud saying goodbye to the love of his life. It’s a hell of a song, a real killer, one that will hopefully succeed in giving Sarah White the larger audience she deserves.
One of the roadblocks towards that success has been the absence of a stable band. The Sweetheart EP sees White playing with a new musical partner, Ted Pitney, formerly of Charlottesville’s own rodeo sweethearts, King Wilkie. This is, based on the evidence within this album, a positive development, as Pitney’s guitar and backing vocals add sinewy muscle to the naked bones of five very strong songs, four of them recorded here for the first time.
Sweet and lowdown: Sarah White reinvents the title track of her new Sweetheart EP with former King Wilkie guitarist Ted Pitney.
Sarah White’s music is often called country, and there is more than a touch of country in her guitar playing and song writing, and in the plaintive lilt of her voice, the way it curls in at the end of her words like a deep forest fern. This is country in the manner of Townes Van Zandt and Gillian Welch, country that’s more about the dark hills of Appalachia than the plastic, McCowboy fantasy of Nash-Vegas.
White’s songs often make a transition about halfway through, sliding from folk/country to rock/pop, as in the “Ba ba ba!” chorus that ends “Ply Me,” and in the subtle distorted guitar on “Apple in B Major,” a song that comes in like a lullaby, but goes out like a dirge.
There’s something very Cormac McCarthy-esque about White’s songs on this EP, something stark and beautiful despite an underlying sorrow. “Sweetheart,” she sings in the title song, “if you knew the pace/ at which you fall from grace/ you’d slow down.” White’s career seems to be moving fast (she heads to Memphis at the end of February to play at the 2008 Folk Alliance Conference) but her music is never hurried.