Monday, February 7, 2011

Barton Hollow Review

The Civil War's highly anticipated debut LP, Barton Hollow, arrives just in time to capitalize on the season that fits its moods most accurately - winter. The timid plucks of the acoustic guitar paired with the breathy, soulful voices of the vocal duo Joy Williams and John Paul White encapsulate the season with a stunning precision as they volley between a simplistic folk facet and an underlying soulful country presence. It's this tip-toeing between genres that allows The Civil Wars to experiment in their myriad of techniques in order to convey what they do best - and that is writing music.

Atop their wispy and flowing music in the opening tracks of the record, they croon their poetic romanticisms on superb tracks like "I've Got This Friend" and "To Whom It May Concern" which will either split your heart in two or leave you chagrined that you're listening to such cutesy tunes. The pair work wonderfully together as their contrasting vocals hit perfect harmony occasionally, with White's gruff deliveries mixing with Williams' soft-as-silk vocalization to a surprisingly effortless success. It's in these soft moments that they slowly build up to the climax of the record, "Barton Hollow", which hits with a sharp intensity as they stir in hints of rock with their decidedly simple folk backbone. The pair's singing of "Won't do me no good washing in the river/Can't no preacher man save my soul" is another example of how well they mix together with their contrasting accents and vocal tones, but still finding a way to make it sound completely natural.

After the explosion that was the title track, the album simmers down to a musical interlude as the haunting "The Violet Hour" moves with a soothing eeriness as a cello hums in the foreground. Even with the absence of Williams and White, they contain the chilled atmosphere in the most layered and musically adept song on the album. They show enormous strides throughout this record as it progresses, which hits a small stagnancy as the few tracks before the conclusion mull along, but still they end with a satisfying number. "Birds of a Feather" is the one song that can describe everything that The Civil Wars has to offer to the world of modern folk music. It sways and swells with the group's customary vocals and simplistic chord progression, but still manages to remain absorbing as their lyricism ends the record on a remarkable note. With Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars live up to every bit of hype that arose prior to its release and imprint some incredible tracks onto their resume as their career begins with a bang. Not only are they a group showered in praise, but also they're a group that deserves that praise. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real payoff of Barton Hollow.

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