Oh, you wonderful Civil Wars. You’ve up and done it again. You’ve made an album that I look forward to listening to, even if I had it on repeat the day before. I can’t say that I’m surprised. The duo’s songwriting ability and lyrics in their debut album, Barton Hollow, hardly earned me the name “ye of little faith” when it came to their musical ability. However, just last year The Civil Wars suffered a, well, civil war of their own. Leave it to me to fall in love with a group just months before they cite “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.”
Timing aside, it was upsetting. Their hiatus meant one thing and one thing only: a pause, perhaps even a stop altogether, in music from The Civil Wars. Until…my hopes were lifted during ABC’s show Nashville, when a young duo sang a song by The Civil Wars. I was watching the show the way I tend to watch most things (aside from Downton Abbey – that one has an odd power over my brain), iPad in hand, Facebook or Pinterest open, when I nearly leapt up from the couch. And by that I mean I set my iPad down really fast and leaned about as far forward as I could without falling to the ground, left ear angled towards the TV. Yes, it was that easy to distinguish a song by them, even when Joy Williams and John Paul White weren’t on the lead vocals.
That distinguishing factor is one reason why I love and adore this group. I almost did heel clicks down the hallway as soon as I heard a new album would be out on August 6 and, after hearing the first song, I came close to doing them again. The Civil Wars came out with The Civil Wars after “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition” and the product was beautiful. It’s times like these when I truly believe beauty is pain. (I don’t believe it as much after wearing [too] high heels for 5 hours…because there is nothing beautiful about that shuffling limp.) The natural sound to both Willams’ and White’s voices I fell in love with on Barton Hollow is still there, despite what they had gone through. It’s a small vibrato you can’t mess with or autotune. One that is so full of a human element and emotion that I nearly give a round of applause to my headphones after hitting the play button. Don’t think that this means their music has a frail element to it. “The One That Got Away” (a favorite on the album) runs the gamut of a feeling of sadness to being legitimately angry. At least this is how the duo sounds and you know what? I believe them.
As expected, The Civil Wars delivered a song just as beautiful as “Poison and Wine.” The fourth song, “Dust to Dust,” is the song featured in advertisements for their album. While I’m sure that discussion and decision making process was one that lasted for hours upon hours, I can see why it was chosen. The harmonies made my hair stand on end and I stopped what I was doing until the song ended. Not a bad quality for an advertisement. “Eavesdrop” has a similar impact on the listener. The story told by the lyrics, guitar line and merging of their voices is tragically beautiful and makes me feel for the storyteller. Once again, thank you dearly for the human element and for pulling at my heartstrings. How could it not with lyrics like this? “Oh, don’t say that it’s over…let’s let the stars watch, let them stare. Let the wind eavesdrop, I don’t care. For all that we’ve got don’t let go. Just hold me.”
Not surprisingly, The Civil Wars debuted at number 1 on the Billboard chart with this album. While I’m certainly not a proponent of war of any kind, perhaps the obstacles faced by The Civil Wars are what created it. If that’s the case, I applaud them in fighting through and doing it gracefully. The result was a number 1 album that won’t ever feel stale to me. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, Joy Williams and John Paul White are actually doing heel clicks around town; they’re certainly warranted.
The One That Got Away:
Dust to Dust:
I Had Me a Girl: