On The Hurting Kind, John Paul White takes his soulfulness in a different direction than in the past. White finds a lusher, more orchestrated sound to surround his lyrics of loss, wistful hope, disappointment, and faded love. Erin Rae and The Secret Sisters provide background vocals, and drummers Jon Radford and Reed Watson, guitarist Pat Bergeson, bassists Jon Estes and David Hood, and fiddler Lillie Mae join White on the album.
The operatic “I Wish I Could Write You a Song” floats over a bed of pedal steel and strings and soars spaciously into a blue funk about the frustrations of love and the ability to express it well in words. It resembles the kind of songs that JD Souther was writing in the late 1970s, but White’s song drowns itself out in the strings. “Heart Like a Kite” depends on lush production, too, though it’s sparser and White’s vocals tug at our emotions without drowning in a sea of schmaltzy strings, though the songs falters at the end. “Yesterday’s Love” is a simple little waltz that kicks off with a pedal steel, but White’s overblown vocals turn the song into a tune more at home in a carnival than in country music. The title track sometimes loses its heart in overproduction, but of all the songs on the album, this one succeeds in its purity, as well as its ability to find us with its emotional pulls. “You Lost Me” is a spare country waltz that’s perfect for a slow dance in any honky-tonk; its clean and simple, with an aching pedal steel that mimics the crying heart of the singer’s vocals and fiddles that take a phrase or two from “Waltz across Texas.”
There are shining moments on The Hurting Kind — such as “You Lost Me” and Lee Ann Womack’s vocals on “This Isn’t Gonna End Well” — but they don’t illumine the entire album. White soulful vocals carry most of these songs, but they’re often lost in the overproduced music that surrounds them.