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White makes hurting sound real good

Once Ballroom, Somerville, Mass., May 6, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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John Paul White entitled his new disc, "The Hurting Kind." But there is no hurting of any sort on White's performance - well maybe only when considering the subject matter - showcasing his vocals and a bevy of quality songs.

The CD moves White closer to his Southern roots mixing country and roots sounds. The concert followed suit.

White, forging ahead from the split of the standout duo The Civil Wars, stands out most because of his vocal delivery. When he closes his eyes for emotional impact, one got the sense that he was actually feeling it, not acting it. In other words, there's an authenticity about White as he showed on the title track mid-way through the regular set, "Simple Song," a song he dedicated to his grandparents, and a bunch more.

White also easily engaged with the crowd - it wasn't huge. Maybe a hundred people or so, but they were supportive, and White fed off that energy.

Opener Erin Rae offered backing vocals on the tick tock country of "Yesterday's Love," probably the hardest country song played all night.

White also sported a solid band with fiddle player Kim Samson. She stood out on any number of songs ("The Good Old Days" and "This Isn't Gonna End Well") as did pedal steel player Todd Beene. They upped the country quotient of the material. Shonna Tucker, once a member of Drive-By Truckers (and also married to Jason Isbell), anchored the rhythm with drummer Reed Watson.

White showed where his roots were at some level during the three-song encore. He turned in a pleasing take on the Everly's "All I Have to Do is Dream" with opener Rae supplying the duet. As White is wont to do over the years, he closed out the night with ELO's "Can't Get It Out of My Head." Yes, the song may seem to be a stretch and have nothing to do with what White is typically about. But he made his own mark, letting his vocals shine.

There may have been a lot of lot of hurt in the subject matter, but White sure made them sound great.

Up-and-coming singer Rae, who is on White's Single Lock Records, opened with a winning half-hour set. Rae is an earnest singer, rooted in folk. With a most pleasant, soothing voice leading the way, Rae tended to stay within confined musical parameters. That would be on the slower side.

Guitarist Jerry Bernhardt peppered the songs with a bit of twang and needed decibels to create texture and atmosphere.

Rae, who has been building steam since the release last year of her sophomore effort, "Putting on Airs," showed why that was deserved.