Tag Archives: John Paul White

John Paul White with The Secret Sisters

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Red Room at Café 939, Boston, MA

My friend Mac first introduced me to The Civil Wars on a cold winter’s night in 2009. John Paul White and Joy Williams were captivating. Their April 2009 set at Eddie’s Attic was recorded and released online as a free download a couple of months later on The Civil Wars’ website. The pair had undeniable musical chemistry and their songs resonated with me. I made a friend at an Iron & Wine show in 2011 who invited me to join him for Adele at the House of Blues in Boston a month later. Those tickets were impossible to get, so I was thrilled. I squealed out loud when I found out that The Civil Wars had been added to the bill and that I was going to get to finally see them live. I stayed after the show and approached John Paul White at the merch table, which is something I rarely do. I was sure he is a genuine person who would be kind (doesn’t it ruin it for you when you meet an artist whose music you care about, and they’re not?), and he was a dear. I told him that I’d been hoping to see them for a couple of years, and that I was actually more excited to see them that night. He glanced at Joy and said “don’t you think that deserves a group hug?” And then they hugged me. It was very, very sweet, and a moment I still recall fondly. I was lucky to see The Civil Wars again a handful of months later at Berklee’s Performing Arts Center in Boston from the fourth or fifth row. They were spellbinding. Then they broke up.

I was thrilled when I saw that John Paul White was writing music and was planning a tour. He produced Penny and Sparrow’s beautiful album, Let a Lover Drown You, which I’ve listened to countless times. I bought my ticket to see JPW at The Red Room at Café 939 at Berklee College of Music in Boston the minute they went on sale. I would not pass up an opportunity to see him live in such an intimate setting. My friend Jan and I drove to Boston and grabbed an early dinner at Bukowski’s and lined up before doors opened so we could be front and center, and it paid off, because we were able to stand a foot or two away from such talented musicians all night.

I’d first seen Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, open for my beloved Brandi Carlile (she and the Twins are producing their upcoming album, too) about six months after first seeing The Civil Wars back in November of 2011 at Berklee in Boston. I loved their vintage vibe, beautiful harmonies, and funny audience banter. I got to see them again a couple of years later with my concert friend Bob (who’d taken me to see Adele and The Civil Wars) when they opened for Iron & Wine at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. The Secret Sisters played a half dozen songs and told stories and entertained thoroughly. I particularly liked “Carry Me,” which was such a sweet song about being daddy’s girls and having a wonderful father. I also really wish I could find a video of “He’s Fine” to share with you because I loved it and would love to listen to it again. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next album! Here they are on Jay Leno playing “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” which is on The Hunger Games sountrack. Check out “Rattle My Bones” to get a sense of their more upbeat side. They’re great.

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Lydia and Laura Rogers are The Secret Sisters

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John Paul White and his band took the stage and he poured his heart out for us. He played fifteen songs for a captivated audience (I still can’t believe I got to see him play in such a small venue from the front row!). He talked a lot with us about feeling conflicted about the songs that started to pour out of him because he knew he’d want to share them with the world and touring meant he’d have to spend some time away from his family. He asked us to come talk to him after the show to give him feedback about what resonated with us and what didn’t. I can’t think of a time a musician wore his heart on his sleeve more at a show. It was humbling to witness someone who so desperately wants his music to connect with people. His voice was clear and haunting as ever, and The Secret Sisters joined him throughout his set and added beautiful harmonies that amplified the message.

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Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters and John Paul White

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It was pretty incredible to stand right next to this man during his set!

John Paul shared with us a song about his grandparents. He said he appreciates music you can step inside and become the character in, but didn’t know how to feel about this particular song because “I loved my grandfather and thought he walked on water, but he did not. He had a lot of demons and my grandmother raised fourteen children by herself.” He played “No One Will Ever Love You,” which was featured on season one of Nashville. It’s easy to be a character in this song, John Paul—“Don’t you try to tell me someone’s waiting/They’re not waiting for you/Oh and don’t you try to tell me that you’re wanted/That you’re needed/Cause it’s not true.” Oh my heart. Check out “The Martyr” on NPR Music and “What’s So” at Rolling Stone. I am so eager to have my hands on John Paul White’s upcoming album, “Beulah,” which will be released August 19. Thanks for coming back into our world and putting yourself out there so honestly, John Paul. You’ve been missed.

xo,

bree

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Penny and Sparrow with Rose Cousins

Sunday, April 24, 2016

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

I sold my house! I moved ten years of my possessions to my new place, which is half the size of my beloved old place! I also threw a senior prom for almost 250, senior awards night, graduation for almost 180, and went on the Project Graduation trip with my seniors. Now I’m feeling settled in my new place and am SO READY to get back to more live music in my life. I don’t know about you, but times are heavy and music helps me through. I offer you “Rise Up” from Andra Day at Austin City Limits, just in case you need a boost right this minute.

I have pondered what to write about the incredible Penny and Sparrow show I saw back in late April at One Longfellow Square for a long while. It was incredible and one of the BEST SHOWS I HAVE EVER SEEN. That’s a little hard to process, just like the show still is. I wish I could relive every moment. I am so glad my steadfast concert companion Colin joined me, because I needed backup. This show was intense. Overwhelming. Wonderful. It hit me so hard in the feels that I needed a tissue.

I’d been lucky to see Canada’s talented Rose Cousins back in March in my former sweet little town of Gardiner, Maine at Johnson Hall. She is hilarious and gritty and open live and is a true entertainer. Juxtaposed with her beautiful, depressing songs, it’s a lot to see her perform. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster between the sad songs and her sharp banter and storytelling. It prepared me really well for this night, though.

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Rose Cousins

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Rose Cousins took the stage and gushed about Austin’s Penny and Sparrow. She told us they’d met in January at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival and that “these men have more feelings than me.” And listening to them is like “wearing your favorite hoodie right out of the dryer.” She joked that it was nice to be touring with people who just play sad music “so I don’t have to explain myself.” Rose opened with a cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake” (I haven’t seen Lori in ages, but her songs are so good) and “Go First,” which was featured in the finale of season 9 of Grey’s Anatomy (but not in the kind of scene Rose envisioned for her song).

We all sang along with Rose’s cover of “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” and Rose told quippy stories in between these somber songs, including “Farmer’s Wife,” which she told us was inspired by her sister, who is (in fact) a farmer’s wife. Rose told us about her trip to Ireland last May to write and record a forthcoming album, which I am eager to hear. Rose wrapped her set with “Heart Be With Me Now,” “I Make Way For Love,” and “Tender is the Man,” all of which I assume/hope will be on her new album. She left the stage by telling us that there are “no tenderer men” than Andy and Kyle of Penny and Sparrow.

Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke took the stage and warmed the crowd immediately with light humor about our “summer” weather in Maine that had them both wearing double coats. Then, Kyle quietly strummed his guitar, Andy put his hands in his pockets and leaned toward the microphone, and “Gold” sprung from their mouths. It was one of those rare moments at a show when you start to get sad because you realize the night will end. I felt like that from the first note.

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Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke are Penny and Sparrow

I was not the only one entranced by Penny and Sparrow. Their sparse, evocative songs—Andy’s straightforward voice and Kyle’s gentle strumming and harmonies—are stunning. Kyle read our group response beautifully and told us our “give a damn” meter was high and it was a huge compliment to them and thanked us for listening. I laughed out loud in between songs at Kyle’s jokes, and then teared up during the songs. It was a lot to take in. Kyle told us that he gets it’s “taxing” (that’s the word he used) to listen to their music and genuinely appreciated we were along for the ride. He said it’s good to “shake your emotional snow globe” from time to time so that you don’t harden and can process your feelings. No kidding.

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Penny and Sparrow hit me in the feels with “Finery” and “Catalogue,” did a complete turnaround to sing a few lighthearted bars of “Hero” by Nickelback, and then got right back to it with Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” Seeing them live is a ride I would have lined up for again immediately after the show. I wish I could relive the magic of this night. I wish you were all there, too.

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Kyle gave us a lengthy scenario about running into an ex at a dinner party to introduce “Bed Down.” He talked about a kind of love where you are intimately aware of the struggles but don’t leave—a love with “no escape hatch.” I’d seen NPR Music feature “Bed Down” as a “Song We Love” back in February, and that’s when I learned that my beloved John Paul White (formerly of The Civil Wars) produced their album. I got to see John Paul again a few weeks ago from the front row at Cafe 939 in Boston and he is so incredibly down to earth and talented. What a pairing for Penny and Sparrow’s third studio album.

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Rose Cousins joined Andy and Kyle for “Duet.” Andy introduced the song by saying there just weren’t enough songs about married love, so they wrote one. He said it’s about being together for a long time and still being into each other. The lyrics show resolve “Because I’ve seen you/And I know you/And I’m not going anywhere.”

This was a perfect night of music and easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I wish I could do it again. Thank you, Rose, Andy, and Kyle for a cathartic night of music, storytelling, and laughter. I am in awe of all of you. You shook my emotional snow globe, and I feel better for it. Please come back to Maine again. Come together, too, if you can.

xo,

bree

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