Some might say you can never leave your ghosts behind. I witnessed the exact opposite on Tuesday evening. John Paul White, my favorite half of the now defunct folk-americana duo, The Civil Wars, made his way back to New York City after a lengthy hiatus. Armed with new songs he said “just wouldn’t leave him alone,” the Alabama native stepped gingerly onto the crisp white stage at National Sawdust, humbly holding his dram of liquor, and began to sing.
As the words echoed around the space, a completely acapella moment, those watching in the room stood as still as statues. John Paul’s voice is something that can either move mountains or grasp your heart and never let go, and undoubtedly, he has one of the most beautiful male voices in music today. From the second he opened his mouth, it was clear he had a hold of everyone’s hearts.
Joined by a talented group of musicians, including The Secret Sisters – a sister-duo whose harmonies were pushed to the forefront during an opening slot for the night, further upped the intimacy in the room with their resounding harmonies, captivating everyone immediately.
Where one might have missed the female vocal counterpart of years past to John Paul’s voice, the Sisters filled in beautifully, adding a depth and richness. Playing a set of mostly new songs, to be released in August on his full-length entitled Beulah, John Paul asked for us to be present in the moment and truly take in the songs in their entirety. While none of us knew each song word for word, his intention for the night was fully accomplished… an affirmation of where he stands today, both musically and personally. Having left the turmoil of the past behind, John Paul delivered a set that spanned emotions from loss, longing, and of course love. The songs felt completely authentic as the “thank you’s” he gave freely to the audience for simply listening respectfully.
By the close of the show, and after a healthy 3-song encore, I felt as if I didn’t want him to leave the stage. It had been so long since I’ve seen and heard him perform live, it made me wonder when the next time would be. Judging from the music he performed that night, I’d say the passion and commitment to his craft burns just as strongly now as the passion and commitment he has for his family. This time, it’s outwardly obvious he intends to nourish both equally.
Article: Lesley Keller