Music Review: The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars

January 20, 2014



Following up on the near-perfection of a full debut like Barton Hollow was never going to be a simple matter, especially when the band went through some difficult in-house politics – a bigger issue than usual when there are only two people involved. Opener The One That Got Away may be the bitter tonic that put all of that to bed – it’s wistful and brittle (there aren’t many more poignant lines than “I wish you were the one that got away”), but achingly beautiful at the same time. I Had Me A Girl suggests an awareness of the chart appeal of the Black Keys and the blues-loving noiseniks who have followed in their footsteps. The dead simple songwriting-plus-chops formula remains Joy Williams and John Paul White’s biggest strength, however and even when the songs don’t measure up to the pair’s formidable combined potential, the genuine passion conveyed by the way a harmony is sung, or a note is sustained means that you will turn your head towards wherever this music is playing, probably with your eyes closed as you try to shut out the world and enjoy the purity of those moments. Eavesdrop is not too different stylistically from a Lady Antebellum single, with a similar male-then-female vocal call-and-answer structure, but there is, somehow, more yearning involved here. If it wasn’t so exquisite to listen to, you’d want to put your head in your hands and sob. From This Valley is a good deal more cheerful, a down-the-line country tune that offers all the best facets of the genre and all in a tune that could, should circumstances require it, be played on a street corner with a single acoustic guitar. The same can be said, too, of the chipper Oh Henry before the elegant silences in Sacred Heart speak as loudly as the delicate arrangement


1.      The One That Got Away                                            8.25

2.      I Had Me A Girl                                                          7.00

3.      Same Old Same Old                                                   8.00

4.      Dust To Dust                                                               7.75

5.      Eavesdrop                                                                   8.50

6.      Devil’s Backbone                                                        7.00

7.      From This Valley                                                         8.00

8.      Tell Mama                                                                   6.75

9.      Oh Henry                                                                    8.00

10.  Disarm                                                                          7.75

11.  Sacred Heart                                                                 8.25

12.  D’Arline                                                                         7.50

Rating: 7.729