John Paul White indulged his love of vintage country on his new, second solo album. (Courtesy Alysse Gafkjen)

John Paul White revives countrypolitan

Ex-Civil Wars artist collaborates with songwriting heroes on new album

Not too long ago, ex-Civil Wars vocalist John Paul White, appearing at The Chapel this weekend with his new solo album “The Hurting Kind,” found himself listening to countrypolitan records in his Florence, Ala. homestead.

The short-lived sound, an urbane Nashville spinoff from the late 1960s and early ‘70s that revolved around and relied on gentle orchestration and the aloof crooning of key artists like Eddy Arnold, was a classy approach White hadn’t heard on the radio in decades.

He marveled at the subliminal authority of Jim Reeves, flatly informing an unfaithful lover about her third wheel that “He’ll Have to Go.”

“Such cold, confident control he displayed on that warm-sounding song — you just don’t hear that nowadays,” he says.

He stopped pining for the genre and set out to write his own countrypolitan album. “The Hurting Kind,” his second solo outing, offers sophisticated, dinner-jacket songs such as “Yesterday’s Love,” with Little Mae, “This Isn’t Gonna End Well” with LeAnn Womack and “The Good Old Days.”

“I was looking for that sound everywhere, trying to hear it in a modern setting, and I’d worn out all my old records,” says the Grammy winner. “And I finally started thinking, ‘This is what is pleasing you. This is what’s in your veins right now. This is something you should follow.’”

Shrewdly, he borrowed his publishing company’s Rolodex and began tracking down his heroes. “And then I just soaked it all up,” he adds.

It started as a simple fact-finding experiment, finding the vintage countrypolitan composers who were alive and working.

It turns out there were a lot more than he suspected who were fans of The Civil Wars, his Southern Gothic duo with Joy Williams, which disbanded acrimoniously in 2014.

With his first call he hit paydirt. The legendary Bill Anderson regaled him with tall tales of the Marty Robbins and Roger Miller era, then invited him to his Bill Anderson Room at Music Row’s posh Sony Studios for writing sessions, leading to three finished cuts.

The next contact was the prolific Bobby Braddock, who doubled as Robbins’ keyboardist.

White’s coolest coup was luring reclusive Whitey Shafer back into the studio again after a disgruntled decade to conceive “I’m Never Gonna Fall In Love Again,” which didn’t make the album.

“It was the only song we wrote, and then he passed away,” he says. “But I actually got to sing it at his memorial, which was really hard with all those serious songwriters sitting there. But it was quite the honor.”


John Paul White

Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. June 16

Tickets: $20 to $22

Contact: (415) 551-5157,

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