What does it sound like?:
John Paul White made his name duetting with Joy Williams in The Civil Wars. Four Grammys later, he can call on some of Nashville’s finest to help him with his solo career. Ben Tanner produces, Pat Bergeson plays lead guitar and the legendary David Hood provides a hefty bottom end. White declares he was inspired by the lush, orchestrated music of 1960s Nashville, aiming for a torch song, classic timeless quality, and you can hear the money that’s been spent on this record.
Of course, ‘solo’ it doesn’t matter how many talented people are surrounding you, in the end the responsibility is on your shoulders. White, himself, sings lead on nine of the ten songs, writes seven entirely by himself and co-writes the remaining three, plays guitar and co-produces.
White aims high, his lyrics concentrating on the universal experience of disappointment in love, swept along on grand melodies. Sadly, under the rather resplendent sound, the songs aren’t particularly strong. There’s none of the excitement of the usual Country fare of disease, failed crops, alcoholism, heroin addiction, illegitimate births, betrayal or revenge killings. White’s only real problem in life is his difficulty maintaining a relationship with a woman, a flighty woman who is not as into him as he is into her. Yet his voice is despairingly anguished rather than lovelorn, as though he spends all day wringing his hands. His head voice is actually painful on the ear. He remains abjectly miserable throughout, even on the finale, My Dreams Have All Come True. Any hope implied in the title is completely absent in the performance. The weeping peddle steel needs a slap and to be told to get over itself. I Wish I Could Write You A Song is likely to attract nods of agreement. The best track is a duet with Lee Ann Womack. White’s words are much more pleasing delivered by a female voice and his singing is at its best supporting someone else, a step away from the limelight.
John Paul White is more than capable of writing good songs and he is an accomplished producer. However, he needs a good woman to rub against, to achieve that frisson of tension all good music needs. Solo, he is safe and maudlin, the weakness of his voice is exposed and his songwriting ambition is overstretched across a whole album. The Hurting Kind treads water in his career, an album appealing to the lowest common denominator, a kind of MOR Country. Regrettably, it isn’t the timeless classic he wants it to be.
What does it all *mean*?
Sometimes Plan B doesn’t work out so well. A straw poll suggests Mr White possess devastatingly good looks and should have a queue of ladies more than happy to work with him if he decides to go back to Plan A.
Goes well with…
Drowning your sorrows.
Might suit people who like…
Lots of production. One dimensional songs.