Few would have expected that Everlast would be where he is today. After a less-than-promising start as a pretty pinup boy not unlike the lads in ‘N Sync, he “Jump”-started his career with proud rapping Irishmen House Of Pain, but the dissolution of that group, coupled with his hard-partying bad-boy lifestyle, did not bode well for his future. Ironically, it was when his future was nearly cut off altogether by a freak heart attack that he got his personal and professional life back together, and he returned with Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, a surprisingly introspective and powerful solo album that has more in common with Neil Young and Willie Nelson (or maybe Beck and Sublime) than with House Of Pain or any other straightahead rap act.
EVERLAST, a.k.a. Erik Schrody, spent his formative years in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley (yes, the same Valley immortalized in song by Frank Zappa) and kicked off his rapping career with Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate Cartel. After releasing the whitewashed teen-heartthrob album Forever Everlasting in 1990, he formed the much more credible House Of Pain with Leor “DJ Lethal” Dimant (who’s now in Limp Bizkit) and Danny “Danny Boy” O’Connor. But rve years later, after recording three albums with the trio, Everlast was on his own once again.
It was on the rnal day of recording what would become Whitey Ford that Everlast underwent an emergency heart-valve-replacement operation to repair a torn muscle in his heart. (He was born with a heart defect and knew that it would eventually have to be surgically corrected, but his frequent cigarette- and pot-smoking greatly exacerbated the problem and made surgery necessary at a much earlier age than expected.)
Everlast thankfully survived the open-heart surgery, but ironically, Whitey is full of chilling references to death, near-death and hospitals (“Death Comes Callin’,” “Hot To Death,” “Painkillers”), as if he was keenly aware of his mortality during the making of this brutally honest album.
If Everlast hadn’t pulled through, Whitey Ford would have been a rtting epitaph, leaving behind a respectable and impressive post-House Of Pain legacy for Everlast. An unexpectedly mature album mixing hip-hop samples with emotional, reflective lyrics and Everlast’s own bluesy and at times acoustic guitar work, Whitey may confound old-school fans expecting more frat-boy party-rap anthems. But it clearly showcases Everlast’s musical diversity and long-hidden singer-songwriter talents, and it will therefore only broaden his audience in the end; the first single, “What It’s Like,” has already become a staple on modern rock radio, a format that previously would have steered clear of a “rap” artist formerly of House Of Pain.