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The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars

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Album Review

Like any union that carries some measure of professional convenience, the Civil Wars encountered difficulties as they began to mature. Unlike other groups whose history extended to a professional gathering of songwriters and singers, the duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White were blessed with considerable immediate success: their 2011 debut climbed its way into the U.S. Top 10, going gold and winning two Grammys along the way. Any other band would've basked in such success, but the Civil Wars began to splinter, announcing in November of 2012 that they were taking a hiatus, leaving behind this, an eponymous second album (along with a soundtrack collaboration with T-Bone Burnett for the documentary A Place at the Table). The Civil Wars doesn't feel unfinished, but it does contain some loose ends that are even more apparent after the refined execution of Barton Hollow, which was an album that glided along upon its own cool reserve. Williams and White hardly abandon that sense of quivering, dreamy sweetness — the very way they harmonize avoids any dirt or grit — but they surround themselves with darker colors on The Civil Wars, occasionally opting for bigger, bolder arrangements that underline either the melancholy or yearning underpinning their songs. Cannily, the duo sequence the album to open with a couple of their moodier pieces — "The One That Got Away," where Williams leans into her phrasing in a manner reminiscent of Amy Lee, and "I Had Me a Girl," a remnant from their Rick Rubin collaboration — and they occasionally return to such charged sturm and drang, including the neo-gothic melodrama of "Devil's Backbone." Elsewhere, they kick up the tempo and spirit a notch — "From This Valley" contains echoes of Appalachia and is livelier than anything on Barton Hollow, "Oh Henry" is spare and twitchy like a nerve — but the duo remain entrenched in harmonies so close they ache and guitars that strum their support without ever gaining attention. Lyrics hint at disquiet beneath the surface, but so much of The Civil Wars can be appreciated merely upon that surface, hearing Williams and White ease into their harmonies as they tastefully conjure spirits of the past to inhabit the present. Ultimately, the Civil Wars are impeccable craftsmen, taking weathered elements and repurposing them for something that feels new and never haunted by what came before.

Customer Reviews

Finally!!!

The new single is fantastic. I am a HUGE fan and was extremely excited to hear about the upcoming album. This new single is exactly what you would expect from these two. Pure magic.

Thank The Good Lord For Music Like This...

When I found out these two were releasing a new album I literally started dancing around my house and annouced my pure joy to everyone I knew (thru speech and facebook.) No words can describe how happy I am that music like this exsists. If it didn't... Well! I just wouldn't know what to do with myself!

Disappointed

This seems like a Joy Williams solo record, not a record with John Paul White. What made The Civil Wars so great was the superb and excellent harmony and energy between the two. It was magical...almost beyond belief. Although there's some great music on this CD, the magic between them is missing. Barton Hollow was a singular masterpiece. Perhaps, we just need to be pleased that such a CD exists at all, and not be greedy expecting that sort of "once in a lifetime" effort be duplicated. Seems obvious from this release that Joy wants to go out on her own. I have no doubt both of them will have success as solo artists, but I'm very disappointed in this new release. I streamed it to get a taste...I won't be purchasing it.

Biography

Formed: 2009 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A folk-pop duo made up of guitarist John Paul White and vocalist Joy Williams, the Civil Wars made a quick name for themselves with the release of a digital album, Live at Eddie's Attic, in 2009. The Poison & Wine EP followed later that year, and the duo partnered with producer Charlie Peacock to begin recording a full-length album in 2010. The result, Barton Hollow, was released in February 2011, topping the iTunes charts and cracking Billboard's Top 20 during its first week. Live at Amoeba...
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The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
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