John Paul White – Beulah (Released 19th August)

£17.99 – LP

*** Ex Civil Wars man returns!***

His first solo album in nearly a decade, ‘Beulah’ is a remarkably & assuredly diverse collection spanning plaintive folk balladry, swampy southern rock, lonesome campfire songs, & dark acoustic pop. Gothic & ambitious, with a rustic, lived-in sound, it’s a meditation on love curdling into its opposite, on recrimination defining relationships, on hope finally filtering through doubt.

White threw himself into the project, no longer the reluctant songwriter but a craftsman determined to make the best album possible. He cut several songs at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. One product of those sessions is “What’s So,” which introduces itself by way of a fire-&-brimstone riff, as heavy as a guilty conscience with gritty & soulful vocals. At the other end of the spectrum is “The Martyr,” the spryness of the melody imagines Elliott Smith wandering the banks of the Tennessee River, yet the song is shot through with a pervasive melancholy as White wrestles with his own demons

Some of the quieter songs were created in the Single Lock offices/studio, including the ominously erotic opener “Black Leaf” & the Southern gothic love song “Make You Cry.” As he worked, a distinctive & intriguing aesthetic began to grow clearer & clearer, one based in austere arrangements & plaintive moods. These are songs with empty spaces in them, dark corners that could hold ghosts or worse.

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