John Paul White and Covenhoven at the Bluebird in Denver, CO on 05-10-17

John Paul White

John Paul White announced to the crowd, “I didn’t come here to cheer you up.” Referring to his melancholy songs such as I’ll Get Even, Hope I Die, and Hate the Way You Love Me. They are somber, but with pleasing melodies and haunting images. I first saw John Paul White back in 2012 as one half of the duo The Civil Wars. A very pregnant Joy Williams was dancing around the stage while singing incredible harmonies with White. Now without Joy (see what I did there), John Paul White is back as a solo artist after an extensive time away from the spotlight.

Making up for a cancelled show in January due to a freak snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest, John Paul White mostly played material from his solo album 2016’s Beulah (biblical word meaning a place of peace and isolation from strife). He explained to the crowd he was perfectly happy not making music and being with his family. But songs started to pour out of him demanding to be heard.

John Paul White
All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess

The performance started with John Paul White walking on stage when the crowd’s cheering suddenly stopped. Before singing a note, White said, “it got creepy for a second.” His a cappella version of I Remember You (the 1941 Johnny Mercer classic not the 1989 Skid Row power ballad) set the mood for the night of beautifully dark music. Next he picked up an acoustic guitar for Black Leaf where his signature finger picking reminded everyone of The Civil Wars distinct sound. Most of the members of the Florence, Alabama band Belle Adair acted as John Paul White’s backing band for the rest of the night. They added ambient dreamy southern depth while White poured his soul out through his heavyhearted voice.

John Paul White

A few songs not on the current album were performed. Simple Song about the death of his grandfather from his grandmother’s viewpoint declaring, “Done my mourn’ in your arms/I ain’t gonna lose sleep when your safe from harm.” Remember White warned the crowd he wasn’t there to cheer them up. He sang a few songs from his first solo album 1998’s The Long Goodbye that was not released until recently due to brutal record industry politics. This Life had the audience in tears with the lyrics, “‘Cause this life is all that I’ve got/All that I am, all that I’m not/And it’s worth all I go through/’Cause this life came with you.”  He closed the show with The Electric Light Orchestra’s Can’t Get It Out of My Head.  Singing, “Now my whole world is gone for dead/’Cause I can’t get it out of my head.”  Reminding us John Paul White isn’t here to cheer you up, but his music might just fill your heart.


The Denver band Covenhoven was the opener. I dined with them before the show. Okay. I sat near them while they ate pizza at the Denver Biscuit CompanyJoel Van Horne plays music under the moniker Covenhoven named after a cabin his grandfather built in Wyoming. It’s symbolically similar to White’s Beulah album title. The symphonic folk music was aided by four enthusiastic musicians especially the bass player with his intense facial expressions. There were a number of Bear Creek High School students in attendance screaming their love for Van Horne. It had something to due with their recent school river trip with him. It was fitting because the majority of the songs themes seem to be rooted in nature.  

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one that can cheer you up. I know lots of jokes.

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