Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Don White

  • Live at the Somerville Theatre [Lyric Moon, 1995] A-
  • Rascal [Lyric Moon, 1997] ***
  • Brown Eyes Shine [Lumperboy, 1999] A-
  • Little Niche [Lumperboy, 2001] B+
  • Live in Michigan [Don White, 2003] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live at the Somerville Theatre [Lyric Moon, 1995]
Of the 11 cuts on this debut CD, only six are songs, because this 37-year-old Massachusetts home alarm system installer is my favorite kind of folksinger--a comedian. His laugh lines wear down like anybody else's, but not before he's poked holes in both the working-stiffs-if-they're-lucky of Lynn, where he comes from, and the folkies-if-anything of . . . what's that fancy name they call Harvard? Macadamia? . . . for whom an employee of America's largest marshmallow fluff factory is as exotic as a native of Fiji. And not before he's convinced me his 16-year marriage has a reasonable shot at 60. A-

Rascal [Lyric Moon, 1997]
two cans of creamed corn beyond the great songpoet of the actually existing lower-middle class he's too modest to be ("Po' Po' Baby," "Great Day," "Nowhere Tornado") ***

Brown Eyes Shine [Lumperboy, 1999]
White gigs every weekend, mostly tiny folk venues and "private shows"--gather some friends in your rec room and he'll make it worth everybody's while. Yet though he lives just 220 miles away, he hasn't hit Manhattan since 1996, because his wife says he has to come home with more money in his pocket than when he left. And come home he does. Thus he stands as the only folkie I can think of who's never footloose or romantically bereft--his subject matter, most of it autobiographical, is domestic, focusing here on parent-teen relationships. The monologue where his brain explodes after a homework discussion with his 14-year-old can only be understood by someone who's been there, and anyone who's been there will immediately play it again. With or without his band he's a strained singer with an unmediated New England accent and barely a guitarist at all, and when he isn't funny he's corny. But usually he's original enough to turn corny into a virtue. A-

Little Niche [Lumperboy, 2001]
Seven songs and four stories, and without question the stories have more bite. If topics like crying when your son leaves for college and coping with your father's prostate cancer seem mawkish by definition, God help "Marlene," home from the hospice and dancing with her son in the backyard, or "A Little More Love," White's prescription for everything this side of prostate cancer. I mean, "Like a Friend" makes me gag, and I'm a fan. On the other hand, the belief that stories about crying when your son leaves for college are mawkish by definition is a social disease. Those ready to combat it should avail themselves of White's humorous-to-hilarious, insightful-to-incisive antidote--cracked tunes, acoustic strum, and all. B+

Live in Michigan [Don White, 2003] Dud