Happy is not a word that is usually associated with John Paul White’s music. Full of longing, heartbreakingly beautiful but definitely not happy. But in this case, White brought the sweetener, bringing the bitter taste to a halt.
White opened with ‘I Wish I Could Write You a Song’ delivered in his pure and haunting voice. The first half of the set was new material from White’s upcoming album The Hurting Kind (April 12th).
Emily Dickinson once said, “tell the truth but tell it slant”. White ran with this on the song ‘James’. An homage of sorts to Glen Campbell and his death from Alzheimer’s, but instead of Campbell’s life chronicled in melody, White switched it out for his father’s.
The new music is dramatic, full of sweeping soundscapes and soaring strings, reminiscent of country songs of the 1960s that brought orchestral music into its folds. But White is not nostalgic for the past, which is evidenced on the politically heavy ‘The Good Old Days’. White introduced the song as being for “all the folks back home in Alabama”, but the song could sit just as easily with those longing for green and pleasant lands and a past that never really existed.
‘My Dreams Have All Come True’ and ‘The Long Way Home’, even without the strings, still had that urgency, intensity and melancholy. What stood out from that night however, was the title track of the album, ‘The Hurting Kind’. White quipped “If you’ve never been in a relationship like this, well, good for you”, before playing perhaps one of the most desperately sad songs I have heard in a while.
White also played songs from his critically acclaimed second album Beulah including ‘Black Leaf’ and ‘Hate the Way You Love Me’. There was also a number of covers, Dan Seals’ ‘Everything that Glitters (Is Not Gold)’ and the ELO song ‘Can’t Get It Outta My Head’, which emitted a loud “Yes!” from one of the audience. White closed the set with ‘This Life’ from his first album.