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The Civil Wars move up

House of Blues, Boston, May 15, 2011

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Being an opening act is not an easy proposition. After all, the crowd tends to be there only to see the headliner.

In the case of The Civil Wars, they had the feeling the crowd pretty much know none of their songs - at least that's what they said from the stage in serving as the opener for British star Adele.

But that didn't seem to stop them (even if there was a chunk of talking at times) from doing their thing of rootsy/Americana/country music.

The Wars are a duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White, who have come far seemingly fast. Williams at one point had a Christian music career going, and White's solo major label CD was derailed by difficulties in the music biz. They found each other and have done quite well with "Barton Hallow," containing music they self-released that has received praise from various stripes of the country/Americana terrain, including Taylor Swift.

A few months back, The Civil Wars were playing before a packed crowd of maybe 200 at Café 939. On this night, the duo (there is no one else playing behind them) entertained and filled the stage.

What helped was that both Williams and White can sing. Both were capable of taking leads and trading lines in song. Even though they are married others, the chemistry between on stage might make you think otherwise. Willams' vocals tend to soar more, while White's are more bluesy and soulful.

They have real good interaction whether yapping from the stage to singing. And they have a bunch of well-written songs as well. A cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean was excellent - it was slowed down, very spare and made the words the focus. Big risks equal big rewards. The Civil Wars were rewarded. So were we.