Having been a long time fan of the Civil Wars for many years, when I saw that John Paul White was visiting our shores I had to go and listen. He released his new album ‘Beulah’ in August this year, released through his own record label Single Lock Records. I bought it immediately on release and inserted in the CD player with trepidation, wondering how half a perfect duo could be the same with half the sound.
I was blown away. It is an album that takes you to a gentle place in your mind and calms the soul. The Civil Wars seemed a distant memory. So I wondered, how would he transfer that imaginative sound to a live stage? As always, the Deaf Institute was the perfect setting. Small enough to be intimate but large enough to show this Alabama hero that he still has a huge fan base in the UK and everyone was hungry for his new music.
He came on stage and immediately sang ‘I Remember You’, the old song made famous by Frank Ifield in the 1960s. He sang acapella and you could hear a pin drop. His voice resonated around the venue and we knew at that point we were in for a treat. He still plays a range of guitars and moved between them seamlessly to play each track from his album. Intensely personal and written deep from within the soul and heart. He explained and apologised for his 3 year absence and how he need time after touring incessantly for 10 years. He drifted back to real life and got his inspiration flooding back after spending time with his family, of whom he is very proud. I felt as though I was only person in the venue and that he was having a very private conversation with me.
His only accompaniment on stage was the very talented bass guitarist who also could switch between instruments including the steel guitar. His playing was so haunting that his sound just seemed to hang in the air and wrap every note around you.
JP told us how he writes his songs, enough to let us take the inspirational words and apply to our own lives and situations. My personal favourites from the wonderful show were ‘The Martyr’, ‘Once and Future Queen’, and ‘This Life Came With You’. But it is hard to pick out any real favourites from the evening as each track was wonderful. A surprise cover was ‘Cant Get It Out Of My Head’ by ELO. A version which will never be topped. He promised us with humour that he would not cover any Oasis tracks – thank goodness for that!
It was one of those evenings when you just need to take a breath and a minute at the end of the performance to realise what you have just seen and heard and be grateful. I recommend that you go listen to this album. But do it when you have real time to listen to every word and absorb the magic.
Come back soon JPW, and please don’t leave it another 3 years.
Writer – Jayne Scoffin