John Paul White - Beulah
“One day I told my wife, ‘I think I’m going to go write a song.’ “ is what John Paul White said before going off to record his first solo record for eight years. She probabyl wasn’t expecting him to return with a collection of angry love songs. After the high profile split of his musical coupling with Joy Williams in The Civil wars White has been totally out of the picture for about three years. His return, with Beulah, contains many terrific songs about love and the trials of it. After Williams poppy album in 2015 this feels almost like White’s belligerent response to it. The split between them never clearer than in their resulting musical directions.
And so it is that White tackles some good old self loathing on the compelling ‘I Hate The Way You Love Me’, self-centredness on ‘The One And Future Queen’, the partner baiting of ‘I’ve Been Over This Before’, in fact lots of near the knuckle songs about relationships. Every song has detail you can read into about his relationship (or lack of) with the other half of his former duo. Or it might be about his marriage. Or not, just stories. It’s fascinating to put your own meaning to the tracks, if a little dark at times.
Still the Muscle Shoals native keeps things fresh by moving through roots music genres with ease; simple guitar picking and vocals on ‘I Want To Make You Cry’, foot stomping on ‘Fight For You’, and swampy riffing on the cracking ‘What’s So’. Thematically it’s relentlessly bleak, but a genuinely thrilling set of ten tracks from a singer songwriter in full flow.