The Civil Wars
May 04, 2011 Web Exclusive
Joy Williams and John Paul White may not be related by blood or by marriage, but the duo that calls themselves The Civil Wars sing together like they have been doing it their entire lives. Often relying only on two voices and an acoustic guitar, The Civil Wars take the best parts of singer/songwriter folk, Americana, and country music and meld them into something that is a bit of each but more than the sum of the parts.
Barton Hollow's title track is a stomping, bluesy down-home march; "Girl With the Red Balloon" features dual voices winding around a haunting melody and augmented with light strings; and "Forget Me Not" is classic country, a fiddle-filled slow-burner with Williams and White's voices out front leading a hymn of faithfulness that even manages some mandolin melody in its midsection.
"Poison & Wine," a song that was both featured in Grey's Anatomy and given a stamp of approval by Taylor Swift, is full of aching call and response vocal interplay describing the complexity of a relationship as the pair sing, "I don't love you but I always will." Williams and White seem born to sing together. Their natural vocal chemistry makes Barton Hollow a satisfying listen straight through. That said, the album is heavy on made-for-TV dramatic balladry, the sort of thing that features so well on Grey's Anatomy. For album number two, it would be nice if the duo changed things up a bit, including more songs like the title track and fewer like "Poison & Wine." (www.thecivilwars.com)
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