Ron Pope Shows He's Ready For Bigger Things At White Oak Music Hall

Ron Pope Shows He's Ready For Bigger Things At White Oak Music Hall
Photo by Pete Vonder Haar
Ron Pope, The National Parks, The Heart Of
White Oak Music Hall
March 2, 2018

Georgia-born/Nashville-based Ron Pope is undergoing something of a metamorphosis. Known for the first portion of his prolific career as a more introspective singer-songwriter type, Pope has parlayed non-traditional distribution success into broadening his sound and thumbing his nose at the industy, for better or worse.

Better, because it's allowed him to explore everything from country-rock to bluesy horn arrangments, all found on Pope's latest album, Work, his 13th in ten years. Pope's latest tour brought him to White Oak Music Hall Friday night, which is good news for his fans. If there's bad news to be had, it's that not a hell of a lot of those fans bothered to show up.

The Heart Of and The National Parks opened the show. The latter are an earnest five-piece from Provo, Utah whose enthusiasm and similarlty to an uptempo Explosions in the Sky were only slightly diminished by an occasionally repettive sounding set. They dedicated "You Are Gold" to Houston, after lead singer/guitarist Brady Parks and wife, fiddle player Megan found themselves stranded here during Harvey. Keyboardist/vocalist Sydney Macfarlane was a particular standout.

Pope came on around 10 and gave his all, opening with "Bad For Your Health" from the new album, then "Hell or High Water" from 2016's Ron Pope and the Nighthawks. Both are fat, bluesy numbers that were well received, though none as much as "One Grain of Sand," from perhaps his most well-regarded release, 2012's Atlanta.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PETE VONDER HAAR
Photo by Pete Vonder Haar
And credit to Pope for maintaining enthusiasm and a connection with a diminished audience. The bottom room at WOMH was maybe a quarter full (the balcony was closed off), which is disheartening for an artist that commands a respectable online following and has found success in streaming sales and smaller shows. Pope is certainly poised for the big time, but mayb the big time isn't ready for him.

Other highlights included a sedate "You're the Reason i Come Home" and a cover of Aretha Franklin's "Baby I Love You" (Pope was part of a benefit concert for Franklin at Carnegie Hall last year), bringing out The National Parks and The Heart Of, before closing out with "A Drop in the Ocean," which dates back to his debut album.

Hopefully last night's paltry turnout was an anomaly (it *is* Rodeo season, after all), and Pope continues to enjoy the success that allows him to make the music he enjoys for many years to come. Who knows, maybe last Friday's show will be his version of the Police playing for six people in Cleveland.


Bad For Your Health
Hell or High Water
One Grain Of Sand
Let's Get Stoned
Come to California
Texas Wildflower Honey
Can't Stay Here
In My Bones
You're the Reason I Come Home
Someday We're All Gonna Die
Perfect for Me
Baby I Love You (Aretha Franklin cover)
A Drop In the Ocean
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar