Civil Wars come out fighting

by Hannah McDonald


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Revolution is never an easy fight – just ask The Civil Wars


Joy Williams and John Paul White, the two musicians who make up this folk-pop duo, have entirely different musical backgrounds, with Williams being a former contemporary Christian artist while White is an Alabama-bred rock musician. Yet somehow, they have managed to fuse these contrasts into a musical arsenal which consists largely of lilting rhythms, haunting harmonies and intriguing lyrics, and they wield these weapons with deadly precision. The result is Barton Hollow, an explosive debut which packs a powerful, if somewhat understated, punch.


From its inception with the track 20 Years, which was inspired by a family secret of Williams’s, right through to Birds of a Feather – the album’s final track – it is evident that Barton Hollow, which was released on 1 February 2011, is not afraid to address issues of the heart. This can be seen particularly in the track To Whom It May Concern, which speaks to a future lover and conveys, through its sincere lyrics and simple melody, a keen sense of longing and hopefulness.


This sincerity is maintained in Poison & Wine, the song which catapulted The Civil Wars into the spotlight after it featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Arguably the most compelling track on the album, Poison & Wine expresses, with precision, the innermost thoughts of two people in a relationship – thoughts which are brutally honest and often bitterly painful. Williams and White’s harmonising reaches its peak in this song, with their voices entwining effortlessly.


Barton Hollow, the title track, is easily the album’s most abrasive song. Gritty and forceful, Barton Hollow’s urgency is driven by a Southern blues rhythm and White’s steel-string guitar, while Williams’s voice is particularly powerful. The Violet Hour, a stirring instrumental composition that gives further merit to both Williams and White’s credibility as musicians, follows Barton Hollow in a poignant fashion and paints lush images in the listener’s mind, conveying the notion that some of the most striking stories do not have words.


After listening to Barton Hollow as a whole, it is difficult not to be impressed by the calibre of music produced by this pair of talented artists, or to anticipate even greater things from them in the future; and if the music industry is a battleground, I firmly believe that The Civil Wars are fast on their way to becoming victors.


[ Video: | TheCivilWars ]


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