The Civil Wars; a damn impressive team if I may say so. A duo comprised of a sultry, gorgeous brunette girl from California, teaming up with a guitar strumming, Johnny Depp looking genius. Joy Williams and John Paul White have raised the stakes in the folk/blues world with their debut album, Barton Hollow.
This album is chock full of southern fueled sound with their full band, but on tour, it’s just the two of them. Normally the barebones arrangement would bother me, but in their case, it actually works out perfectly from the live performances I’ve seen.
The album covers all the standard things you would expect to hear in a southern folky blues outfit: love, loss, travel, and maybe not so expected, getting away with murder. You may have already heard their hit song Poison & Wine on Grey’s Anatomy, but I have a few favorites of my own.
The album is great from start to finish, but the title track, Barton Hollow was the first of my favorites. The seventh track it stands as the loudest song in the arrangement, and deals with the remorse of/fear of the dirty crime they’ve just committed. I don’t think a song about getting your hands dirty has been so cleverly written since At the Drive In’s Enfilade. The music and story play so well together. If anything, I’d bet you’ll hear this song on the next season of Sons of Anarchy. Perfecto.
The final track on the album, Birds of a Feather is a perfect example of a couple in love while on the run. Interestingly enough, my first thoughts were that this song painted a picture of flying high above in stormy skies together…like birds of a feather. The guitars of the song reminded me a little of old Radiohead tracks, with a southern twist on it, and with the randomly visiting standup bass, and smooth harmonizing of the duo, it made for a great listen.
My favorite track was the 8th track, The Violet Hour. An instrumental only track, it still found a way of painting the most vivid picture on the album for me. Joy and John gave an experience that I could attribute to a slow motion walk through a fall forest. The higher noted parts walking through sunlight, orange leaves falling, with the lower, ominous tones keeping eyes low and wary through the shade. It’s great to have a guitar and piano say so much without talking about the people playing them.
For the record, the two aren’t married, and as John says, would be a completely different record if they were. He made a good point about how any healthy relationship couldn’t sing songs about not loving the person they are on stage with. The album is out now, and will fit the eclectic tastes of the world. Still can’t dig em? Look at their youtube covers of the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, and another favorite of mine, Talking in Your Sleep by the The Romantics.
Until next time my friends,