Album Review: White Denim, “Corsicana Lemonade”

Corsicana Lemonade

Singer James Paterlli has described Texas combo White Denim’s album Corsicana Lemonade (2013) as their “barbecue record,” the kind of summer’s evening music that might provide the soundtrack to a neighborhood cookout. Indeed, one could comfortably slot these songs into a playlist alongside Little Feat and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it’s unlikely that the 50-somethings ranged on the back patio would even bat an eye, unless to ask, “Which Allmans record is this from?”

The shadow of the Allman Brothers looms large over White Denim’s muscular Southern rock, but they’re hardly the band’s only touchstone. If there’s a band in the last forty years that’s incorporated melodic twin guitars, chances are you’ll hear it here. Thin Lizzy? Check. The Doobie Brothers? Check. Stevie Ray Vaughan? Check. Kings of Leon? Check. There are also more unexpected influences on display. For instance, the riff on “Limited by Stature” bears an uncanny resemblance to the orchestral middle of Tomorrow’s 1967 psychedelic classic “Revolution”; the dreamy closer “A Place to Start” slots into a groove somewhere between Timothy B. Schmidt’s work with the Eagles and Steely Dan; and album highlight “New Blue Feeling” brings out the mellotron for some more Beatles-esque (or perhaps more accurately Wings-esque) touches. The band is fond of changing things up on a dime, so which songs sound like whom will depend largely on whether we’re talking about the verse, the chorus, or any of innumerable instrumental bridges.

To the extent that there are lyrics, delivered in Patrelli’s Lowell George drawl, they serve primarily to fill time between these instrumental outbursts. And those outbursts are often captivating, led by heavy drum work and a fuzzy guitar tone lifted straight out of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow. Part of me wishes White Denim would just have done with it and become an instrumental outfit, because the band’s interplay is where they dazzle both onstage and in the studio, moving beyond Southern rock conventions into proggier and jazzier territory.

The songs themselves are nothing to upstage Eat a Peach or Waiting for Columbus. But they are solid, and sometimes downright inspired. And not unlike those classic records, Corsicana Lemonade is as appropriate to a transcontinental drive as a barbecue. The only intelligible lyrics tend toward such rock n’ roll standbys like “If it feels good, let it feel good to ya” (though a glance at the lyric sheet reveals a band grappling–sometimes successfully, sometimes not—with themes of aging and maturity) and the interlocking guitars have the propulsive energy of the best road music. So whether you’re grilling with friends or roadtripping across the Old South, take some advice from the song “Cheer Up”: put a dime in your pocket, put White Denim on the stereo, and relax.


Buy it here. Spotify it here.

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