After a dozen years as a professional Nashville songwriter, John Paul White released his 2008 debut solo album, The Long Goodbye, and subsequently met Joy Williams at a songwriting workshop where they were thrown together by chance to collaborate on a song.
That twist of fate led White and Williams to form The Civil Wars, their aptly named Americana/Folk duo, which experienced stratospheric commercial and critical success before creative internal turmoil brought it all crashing down.
In the aftermath of the Civil Wars’s breakup, White wrote and released his dour sophomore solo album, 2016’s Beulah, which proved to be a problematic endeavor. White’s debut solo album had been assembled from the vast catalog of songs he had amassed over his writing career, but Beulah’s material was written specifically for the album and by its very nature would be more representative of White as an artist rather than simply a songwriter. That distinction proved to be daunting, but White rose to the occasion and created a darkly fascinating document of who he was artistically in the vacuum of losing the group that had defined him for six years. It was also the first release for his newly established label, Single Lock Records.
White had broken through the barrier of identifying himself as an artist, so with his just-released third solo album, The Hurting Kind, he wanted to explore not just where he was creatively but also where he had come from originally. To that end, he contacted a handful of Country artists and songwriters who had inspired him as a listener and motivated him as a songwriter — legendary Bill Anderson, Paul Overstreet and Bobby Braddock among them — and convinced them to collaborate on new material with him in his effort to revisit the classic Countrypolitan sound of the ’60s and early ’70s.
With White’s contemporary perspective on that era of Country music and a vocal presence that has been compared to everyone from Roy Orbison to Marty Robbins, The Hurting Kind has racked up some impressively positive reviews since its April release. For nearly two decades, John Paul White was tagged as either a relatively faceless staff writer or as half of a wildly successful duo; with The Hurting Kind, he has taken a major step toward being identified as an artist on his own visionary terms.
White plays Tuesday, July 16 at Newport's Southgate House Revival. Tickets/more info: southgatehouse.com.
UPDATE: White had to postpone his July Southgate House Revival show due to illness. He is now performing Friday, Aug. 16. Tickets for the July show can be used for the new date. Tickets are also still available for $20 in advance.