I am late to the John Paul White game, never mind that other band, but when I finally caught up, THAT voice got me and I finally got to see him play live at the beginning of the year. At that moment, I thought to myself, “do we really have to wait until April for the album?” Now here it is, The Hurting Kind, released for the world to hear.
The album is a very easy listen but that is not meant as any disrespect to White. It is more a compliment in that he has nailed it from the opening track and right through to the last song of the album, with every essence of Americana, country-pop and indie-folk making this sound like a timeless record.
This third solo outing for White opens with the upbeat ‘The Good Old Days’. The track has you immediately smiling, just as if you were thinking of those good times, but then he sings about the best being in front of us; “so what’s so good about, The Good Old Days?” There’s nothing like getting right into the swing of things and then stopping yourself midway to question your thoughts! But it is also a great number to pull the listener into these ten songs, as the rest of the album draws on the inspirations that make The Hurting Kind.
One of the influences that White sought inspiration from was Roy Orbison and when you listen to I Wish I Could Write You Song, it feels as if Orbison is actually singing it. There is no question about White’s soulful vocals that captures you as soon as you hear his voice, but the second track on this album is like it is not even him, including the instrumentation. I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing either, especially when the pedal steel and the strings kick in.
However, I feel that once White found this sound there was no way he was letting it go and that pedal steel steel and other sounds feel very similar in Heart Like A Kite, Yesterday’s Love and You Lost Me. Lyrically however, this is what definitely sets each song apart. I saw White headline back at the end of January this year promoting this album, and he said of course it’s called ‘The Hurting Kind,’ because what else would it be called. And that is what makes John Paul White the artist he is. He can break our hearts and have us crying with the lyrics over these heart-breaking melodies, but the way he wraps his vocals around the words picks us back up. There’s no better way of feeling this than in My Dreams Have All Come True, the closer of the album, where he sings, “the wanting, the holding, the losing you.”
Great breakers in the album come with the opener and later with This Ain’t Going To End Well and The Long Way Home. The former is a duet with Lee Ann Womack and is a classic heart-torn country duet, but their voices together is something that dreams are made of. The swirls of the pedal steel and the slight touch of the snare and cymbals tightly packs in everything perfectly. The Long Way Home was inspired by his love/hate relationship with that of a musicians life and having to be away from his wife and children. You can actually feel his emotions as he sings the lyrics “counting miles back to your door. I ain’t leaving, I’m just taking the long way home to you.”
White has said of this album; “I really wanted there to be a torch song quality to it, the classic timeless quality. To not be afraid of the big note, and not be afraid of the drama.” With these songs, laced with heartbreak and personal touches to his family life, John Paul White has certainly achieved what he wanted to with this album.