REVIEW: John Paul White’s “The Hurting Kind” is a Contemporary Original Salute

Reviews

Just in time for Record Store Day, John Paul White has released his newest batch of songs for our enjoyment. The Hurting Kind comes to us via Single Lock Records and is White’s third solo release and follows 2016’s Beulah. White teamed up with veteran Nashville songwriters Bill Anderson and Bobby Braddock and the result is a suite of songs that show maturity and progression as well as capturing the ghost of Nashville’s grandest times. The Hurting Kind has the feel of both a tribute and a salute to the influences that have inspired White along the way, all while maintaining a stark originality and a contemporary focus.

The albums was co-produced by White with Ben Tanner and recorded in White’s Florence, AL studio as well as in the magical FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. Indeed, the album features FAME alum David Hood on bass as well as a virtual who’s who of musical talent. Jon Estes handles additional bass duties with Pat Bergeson holding down guitar, with Reed Watson and John Radford sharing the drum stool, while Erin Rae and the Secret Sisters also make vocal contributions. There are obviously additional musicians contributing, and the line-up changes song to song, but these gentlemen remain the primary players. From a sonic perspective, the album is beautiful and lush. It’s warm and regal and ultimately it’s these classic sweeping orchestral arrangements that make the album quite like anything we’ve recently heard. I think that was the point. The only other album I can draw a comparison to that used a similar and effective formula, would be Shelby Lynne’s I Am Shelby Lynne.

Lyrically, these songs capture a range of emotions and present them poetically in White’s hauntingly soulful voice.  Despite the grand orchestral feel of the album, it’s always White’s voice that shines the brightest. Whether it’s the questioning and inquisitive tone of “The Good Old Days,” or the reflective qualities of “Yesterday’s Love,” these songs are special and presented as such.

As far as highlights, “This Isn’t Going To End Well” co-written with Braddock and which features a co-vocal with Lee Ann Womack immediately comes to mind. “You Lost Me,” co-written with Bill Anderson and Jamey Johnson, captures a man’s heartbreak with clever lyrical twists. But perhaps none of these songs resonated with me more than “James.” Drawing inspiration from Glen Campbell’s battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia, the song manages to realize the emotions of family and friends as well as the afflicted.  The song was a highlight of White’s recent solo tour and certainly retains its magic here.

I consider myself fortunate to have seen John Paul White’s solo acoustic tour last year which essentially was his opportunity to road test many of these songs. I feel having had the opportunity to have heard these songs in their simplest form has given me a unique perspective into White’s creative process. It’s obvious that he had a vision for this album and carefully and meticulously crafted The Hurting Kind from the heart. Whether one prefers the stark beginnings of these songs or the sweeping fruition they became, White has presented a gem of a release with The Hurting Kind.

You can also check out my thoughts from last year’s performance of many of these songs here: https://americanahighways.org/2018/10/15/show-review-john-paul-whites-show-at-the-blue-door-in-okc-was-expertly-songs-in-warm-listening-environment/

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