Monday, April 25, 2011

The Civil Wars

Sounds very Americana, doesn't it? This relatively new acoustic duo is my latest discovery. I read up about them few months ago, but never actually heard their music only until recently. I was sold after watching their music videos, Barton Hollow and Poison & Wine. After that I immediately bought the first album. The Civil Wars are Joy Williams and John Paul White, who bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp. Turns out both of them were already established independent artists long before they met.

The music is a mix of very sparse country folk melodies with a scattering of pop. The songs are intimate as they are intense, and I mean really intense. Both Joy and John Paul sing extremely well, not too over the top, and their gorgeous harmonizing complement each other. It's so good it hurts sometimes. I also like that they have a unique way of singing certain words, usually not how you'd expect them to be sung. As for their abilities as lyricists, this is modern-day confessional songwriting as its best this side of Ryan Adams. Just remarkable chemistry between them.

Some of the record's highlights include the second song I've Got A Friend, which features playful-like vocals, as each singer take turns playing matchmaker, but essentially they're really singing about themselves. To Whom It May Concern is a sincere unrequited love song; so true with a line like "I’ve missed you, but I haven’t met you". And then it moves into Poison & Wine, about a failing marriage. I'm aware this hit was first heard by the masses on (the overrated) Grey's Anatomy. As exquisite as it may be, one can hope it doesn't get played over any more future (TV shows and films) romance scenes or montages. Another terrific song is My Father's Father.

Meanwhile the title track is a down-south blues stomp with some cool harmonies (click here to check out the YouTube video). But my favorite is the second last, Forget Me Not. It's an original composition, but it harks back to the old tradition of Appalachian-type songs. Really impressive debut effort, and you'll know why they call themselves The Civil Wars after listening to it. In this day and age, this kind of talent is a rare find. I am pretty confident the duo will go far with their music. And I can't wait what they have in store next.