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White makes sad songs sound so so good

The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint, Medford, Mass., May 7, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

It's been quite the few weeks for Canadian Americana/country-based singer Bella White. Ten days ago, she was playing Stagecoach, the massive California country fest. Two days later, she hit the stage at the premiere festival, Merlefest. And White made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry on April 25. Not to mention releasing her plaudit-deserving sophomore effort, "Among Other Things," on April 21.

So one could reasonably assume that the 22-year-old red-headed singer would be in an upbeat state of mind with her nascent career on the rise.

Nope. Well at least when it comes to her songs, starting with "Gutted" where White's opening lines were: "I was gutted/Well, I felt soft/So I took to drinking/With the hopes of getting lost."

"All my songs are sad," White told the enthusiastic crowd of 200 a few songs later with a smile.

And so it was, for the most part – but this was not a downer of an early Sunday evening. Far from it.

There's a lot of beauty in that sadness. First off, she is a keen songwriter with songs filled with lots of perspectives about relationships at an end. No wonder John Prine is an influence or that she turned in a most worthy cover of Lucinda Williams' "Concrete and Barbed Wire." And her choice of Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues" and its keen phrasing matched White's abilities as an artist.

What helped to undercut the seriousness of the material was her stage personality. White did not play the dour, angst ridden singer. In fact, she displayed an upbeat mindset with a number of humorous lines interspersed in her comments.

And it surely helped to have a strong backing band behind her, most notably Patrick M'Gonigle, one time member of Lonely Heartstring Band, who produced White's first release, "Just Like Leaving" and more importantly on this night played one spry fiddle on song after song throughout her 80-minute show.

With a few too many songs heavy on a slow tempo and not on the melodic side for the first four or five songs, it would have been an easier listen if White had switched up the song order tempo-wise.

Once she did with "Do You Think About Me At All," the concert seemed to go into an even higher gear. And not everything was so darn dour. White went country a few times including the brand new "I'm Doing Well," which she played for the second time ever.

This show may not have had quite the gravitas of say the festivals or the Opry, but no matter. White was a most worthy no matter where she plays.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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