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White follows his muse

Cafe 939, Boston, June 22, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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John Paul White said he was unsure how many would bother showing up on this night. He expressed uncertainty even how big a crowd he would attract in his hometown of Florence, Ala. when this tour started a few weeks earlier.

Perhaps White should not have been surprised. After all, he was one-half of the great late The Civil Wars, who turned in a stellar show at the club six (!) years ago before splitting up under for uncertain reasons in 2014.

Crowd size isn't what a concert ought to be judged by, of course. And while White had the crowd behind him, more importantly, he also had the musical chops to lean on.

Now for those expecting and perhaps hoping that The Civil Wars vibe would creep into his music, they were pretty much left wanting. As White told the audience, he had been happy being home in his role of father and husband. But then the songs poured out of him without a particular music agenda.

White played a few songs solo acoustic, but usually had a backing three-piece. The songs rocked more than not, perhaps veering more into singer/songwriter territory with edge on the softer numbers. That was clear from the get go with the opening "I'll Remember You" and "Black Leaf."

White certainly was a vibrant, emotive vocalist. Loud doesn't equal emotion. He more than achieved that on the quieter songs as well in a clear, crisp delivery.

One of the highlights was a song that did go towards Americana territory, "Simple Song" off Dave Cobb's "Southern Family" concept compilation disc out in March. It was a welcome turn from the other material, which will appear on his "Beulah" disc out Aug. 19.

Another high point was a left-of-center take on the Beach Boys' "In My Room."

In this day and age where far too many artists don't stay true to themselves, White has just done that. The Civil Wars are behind him. He didn't play one song from his former band on this evening. Once again, a solo career is where he's at, and he's quite content to follow his muse. It may even help that he has the crowd behind him.

The Secret Sisters opened with yet another winning set from the duo of Laura and Lydia Rogers. With two albums in six years and no label at the moment, the sisters played old, new and borrowed. The latter was "Lonely Island," courtesy of their musical heroes, The Everly Brothers. Laura introduced the song with one of her typically humorous stories about playing the song at an Everly Brothers tribute show at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Like the Everlys the Rogers sisters merge their lovely voices as well in a most pleasant, satisfying way. They also joined forces with White a number of times during his stint, adding more depth to his music and making for an enjoyable night of music apart and together.