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The Civil Wars

Barton Hollow – 2011 (Sensibility)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by The Civil Wars

Upon first listen, The Civil Wars comes off like a more Southern version of She & Him. While She & Him draws upon classic pop elements, The Civil Wars is much more country and folk focused. Charlie Peacock produced "Barton Hollow," giving it a simple, sparse acoustic sound; one that is very different from the man's usual solo music or other productions (early Switchfoot albums, which are all comprised of sharp electric guitar rock, and his own solo work veers closer to blue eyed soul). Joy Williams, the female half of The Civil Wars, also has a contemporary Christian pop background. However, guitarist/vocalist John Paul White has helped bring out her much more subtle singing style.

The way these two harmonize on Forget Me Not brings classic The Carter Family songs to mind. This album's title track is also its most rocking selection, even though it rocks out with aggressively strummed acoustic guitar. There is even a quiet piano instrumental called The Violet Hour.

Despite its battle-like duo name, The Civil Wars songs have little to do with that bloody American war. Nevertheless, if Ken Burns ever chooses to make a sequel to his acclaimed The Civil War documentary, this new act is more than qualified to contribute period-appropriate songs. It's unusual for such organic music to come out of Nashville. More often than not, songs just get cluttered with overproduction shortly after they're sung at Nashville's Bluebird Café. This CD is one exception, where acoustic songs are lovingly preserved in their original beauty, much like a national monument.