Review: The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

I've listened to this album exactly once so when I say that it s one of the best albums to come out this year you can either scoff at that proclamation and stop reading now or believe that it s just that good of an album. Your choice.

Assuming that you chose the latter I ve got a few things to tell you. In a world (or maybe just me) suffering from folksy duo fatigue from the past few years of important records (Plant/Krauss s "Raising Sand" and The Swell Season come to mind) Joy Williams and John Paul White have done the impossible and made me care about this stuff again. If it was just the sparse beauty of the songs, that wouldn t have been enough. If it was just the fact that at times Williams is indistinguishable from Krauss, THAT wouldn t have been enough. What it is what it is I just can t put my finger on it. Whatever it is though, IT WORKS.

Waking up, slightly hung over Saturday morning, I grabbed my coffee and put Hollow on in the background, ready to read a little and recover from playing Dead Space till 2am last night's highly cultured and mature activities. It didn t stay in the background for long. It s so easy to fuck up this kind of album. You can over-arrange. Your lyrics can be just flat out silly. You can make it sound too much like I ve just walked into your bedroom, and oh hey would you like to check out my awesomely sensitive songs. The Civil Wars manage to avoid all of these pitfalls and even steer directly into slick production land (makes sense being that they are from Nashville) without sacrificing any of their charm, believable and tolerable earnestness, or talent. They hit the mark. They stuck the landing.

And this is just after one listen

I haven t had enough time with the band to know anything about them besides a) The track Poison Wine was featured on an episode of Grey s Anatomy (who knew THAT was even on anymore?) and b) Taylor Swift apparently LOVES this band. Those two facts right there should have been enough to keep me away regardless of who recommended Barton Hollow to me (Paste Magazine loves it...and they have decent interview about the bands beginnings here). But they didn t. And now The Civil Wars have won me over.

The band touring smaller venues right now and is apparently selling out shows everywhere they go. While I m a little let down that I won t be able to catch them this Saturday, the show is (surprise!) sold out, I m pretty sure that by the end of the year we ll be seeing them in places like The Black Cat or even the 9:30, so I can t be too put out.

The Civil Wars have made an album here that s going to be getting a lot of play here in the coming months and one that I m sure I ll still be talking about come the end of the year.

Other bands take note. This is a textbook example of how NOT to fuck it up.

Standout Tracks: "Falling", "20 Years"