Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Civil Wars is an awesome duo

It often takes me awhile to get into musical artists.  I first heard The Civil Wars on the last Grammy Awards (which I watched very sporadically) when the pair performed briefly before introducing Taylor Swift.  (They won two Grammys:  Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance.  I would describe their music as Americana--not fitting neatly into either of the narrower classifications of folk or country.)  I kept them in mind as performers in whom I might be interested, and eventually got their 2011 CD through the library system.  Barton Hollow is a great album.

Joy Williams and John Paul White met during a songwriting session in Nashville, TN in 2008.  Their vocal harmonies are great as is the male-female dynamic. White plays the guitar and Williams the piano (the guitar is a constant, the piano brought out more selectively).

"Poison and Wine" is the album's standout track.  It is about the love-hate duality in a relationship, with its oft-repeated line, "I don't love you but I always will." "I've Got This Friend" is another highlight, a song that is playful and touching at the same time. "The Violet Hour" is a hauntingly beautiful instrumental piece with guitar, piano, and strings.  By far the most upbeat song, title track and single "Barton Hollow," is strategically placed in the middle of the album's tracklisting.

A week ago, the duo announced the cancellation of their upcoming tour dates, citing "internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition."  Williams is a new mom and perhaps that has something to do with the tour being halted.  But she and White don't appear to be breaking up:  "Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013."

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars