If you’re a fan of country, folk, or indie music, and you haven’t heard of The Civil Wars yet, take note. This duo, consisting of singer Joy Williams and songwriter John Paul White, has an electric chemistry that belies the minimalistic sound found on their debut LP, Barton Hollow.
The album opens with “20 Years,” which serves as the musical blueprint for Barton Hollow. It’s a largely calm and soothing musical experience, with Williams and White harmonizing over acoustic guitar and piano. It’s a benefit to both the song and the album as a whole. Williams and White produce gorgeous harmonies, and by keeping the focus largely on the vocals, emphasis is drawn to the lyrics by the duo.
The highlight of the album is “Poison & Wine,” which previously surfaced as the title track to the duo’s 2009 EP. As Williams and White trade lines over the verses, their voices merge on the chorus, with the line “I don’t love you, but I always will” repeating throughout the second half of the song. In spite of the repetition, Williams and White wring genuine emotion and heartache out of the line, making it fresh every time.
The exception to the gentleness of the album is the Americana flavor produced on the title track. “Barton Hollow,” the album’s lead single, crackles with an energy that promises greater variety from the duo in the future. The song is garnering critical attention and airplay on country stations, and for good reason. It fits in the modern country music sound, while paying tribute to classic country’s rich history.
All in all, Barton Hollow is a pleasant, soothing gem of an album from a promising duo. If they can build upon the strengths of this album, The Civil Wars should have a lengthy career.
The Civil Wars play at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Lucy Schwartz opens both shows. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door. The concert will also be shown on the rooftop patio for free.