By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
When White delves in plainly topical fare like “Great Imperialist State” or “The American War” (“Do you remember the Americans?”), she does it with an intriguing palette of instruments. (Can one ever really have too many trombones? No!) Nevers’ recording of all this gives a warm, full, rich sound; again, for nostalgic spaciousness, you just can’t beat a heavily tremolo’d guitar, and Nevers surely does not skimp on that.
It was Nevers who took Simone’s material to Albarn at Honest Jon’s. White had met Albarn while doing some photography while living in London in 2002; Nevers had recorded the label’s great Candi Staton album of 2006, His Hands, and thought that this good-taste label (also featuring Tony Allen, Afel Bocoum, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Kokanko Sata, Lobi Traore) might find White’s work of interest. It did, and released I Am the Man in Europe last year; the album made its American debut last month.
To promote the record, the delicately pretty Simone White has been performing a lot on tour — mostly in Europe, just her and a guitar; in July she’ll be joining the aforementioned Honest Jon’s artists in a revue series playing at the Barbican in London, at a festival in Lyon and at Lincoln Center in NYC.
Perhaps she’ll again play in her hometown, Los Angeles, too. A few weeks ago she snuck onto a Sunday night, 8 p.m., bill at the Hotel Café, but that’s certainly not Lincoln Center. When she does return, you’ll hear that special something that elevates White way, way above the crowded, sensitive raft of singer-songwriters. It’s called breath.
“I was listening to Chet Baker, and his singing and his horn playing and that seamless way they go together, and it’s all about his breath,” she says. “And then there was the jazz singer Betty Carter; I saw her in clubs in Seattle, and it was as close as I could get to her. I felt like my cellular makeup was changing in the room because of her voice. I felt like I was downloading the information. I remember feeling, This is changing the way I’m thinking about singing, and breathing, and holding a note.
“Just being in the room with singing and breathing and vibrating, I think, is very inspiring.”