There’s something so equally delicate and intense about John Paul White’s voice. The same can be said about his songwriting! It’s such a beautifully fierce exchange of hard and soft and new and old. His new album, released last week is pure joy and a master class sweeping through multiple genres.
It’s actually really hard to “tick a box” for John Paul White’s music as he really doesn’t adhere to a singular genre or musical style. He plays with/borrows from/mixes with so many different ideas and nuance that it’s genuinely a joy to experience. This is an album to be listened to as a whole and not just as individual songs. It’s a ride worth getting on and it will take you places that you never expected. Strap in, ya’ll. John Paul White is the conductor and we’re on the talent train. (Yes, I realize that sentence is all kinds of corny, but I stand by it.)
The Good Old Days, the opening song of the 10-track album is full of driving guitars and drums, excellent use of violin, and robust vocals at the higher end of John Paul White’s vocal range. Which, especially with this song, is in the pocket. The sweet, perfectly crafted pocket.
Country/Americana never sounded so good with I Wish I Could Write You a Song. The “rockabilly” effect of the guitar mixed with the softness of the vocals and piano is smooth, sultry, and timeless.
Mmm… Heart Like a Kite is pure whimsy and cordiality. It’s easy to picture the proverbial “kite” on its journey upwards, sideways, all ways as he paints a picture lyrically of a lover whose heart just can’t seem to stay grounded. It’s sad, but also so beautiful. The minor descending chords of the chorus are masterful and the harmonies are charming.
We are met with another classic country-inspired tune with Yesterday’s Love. The immortal sound is inspired with the steel guitar, adorable harmonies, and reverb-old microphone-effect of the lead vocal. It’s simply pretty. No other way around it!
The Long Way Home brings us back up rhythmically and sets us up for the journey ahead. “I’m not leaving, I’m just taking the long way home to you.” It’s a raw lyric that is both meaningful and catchy. There are country-inspired aspects musically here as well and vocally it’s one of the strongest so far. Something John Paul does so well is smoothly singing vocal runs like a knife cutting through butter. Butter. Butta. It’s like butta, baby.
The title track from the album, The Hurting Kind is a heartfelt un-love song. Beginning somberly, it moves into something unexpected in the chorus moving from minor to major and creating yet another juxtaposition of soft and harsh tones. The bridge is genuine and vocally stellar, as the 1-2-3-4 modulating chord progression creates tension and excitement. It’s just good song-writing folks. I don’t know how else to describe it!
This Isn’t Gonna End Well gives us not only stellar musicality but a duet with the incomparable Lee Ann Womack! Did you hear me? Lee Ann Womack! Sorry, I’ll say it again for the folks in the back. LEE ANN friggin’ WOMACK! Ok, so country-royalty aside, her vocals are so effortless, blending beautifully with John Paul’s. The last few choruses are sort of genius vocally and instrumentally.
In what may be a song I could listen to every day for a lifetime, You Lost Me is sad, then happy, then upsetting, then lovely. This is the type of song I will sing harmonies to in the shower. Vocalists know what I’m talking about. (If you don’t…then move along.) But harmony singers LOVE songs like this… rich harmonies melded so perfectly with lead vocals. And it’s a “thinking” song. What I mean is a song that instantly brings a person or moment to mind and you “think” about them and sing your little melancholic heart out, all while basking in the memories.
James. That’s the name of the song. Remember that name. Because it’s the most heartbreaking song I’ve heard in a VERY long time. It’s the story of an elderly man who seems to be suffering from Dementia re-introducing himself to the love of his life and his family, as if for the first time. The simplicity of the music lends itself to the story-telling of the lyrics and makes the song so alluringly mournful. What really makes this song soar above the typical is the instrumental bridge – as it’s equal parts somber and delicate. “Well hello, my name is James. Haven’t we already met? It seems we have, by this photograph sitting beside my bed.”
Be still my heart.
The album rounds out with the final song, My Dreams Have All Come True. Hope and dreams set the stage for this tale riddled with excellent vocals, lyrics, string/symphonic elements, country tones, and folk accents.
There you have it, folks. This is how you write an album. This is how you write music. This is how you BECOME music. Thank you, sir. Thank you.