The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow [Music Review]

The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow
The Civil Wars is a musical duo of John Paul White and Joy Williams.

Ever since I downloaded The Civil Wars free MP3 album Live at Eddie’s Attic, I’ve been a fan.

My wife and I have seen them in concert twice, which has only furthered our addiction to this melancholy goodness.

After much anticipation, their first full length release lives up to the hype.

Full of powerful and emotive lyrics, matched by equally strong music, Barton Hollow transports you back a hundred years to the deep South, causing you to feel the weight of each painful story told by Joy Williams and John Paul White.

This album (with some new full band accompaniment) has everything you’d want and expect from the group — both a raw edge to it that is emblematic of their authenticity and a polished side that comes after years of writing songs.

Those of you who remember Joy’s days in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) business will be pleasantly surprised by a more mature, even dark sound to the Civil Wars’ music. (Which I find particularly refreshing.)

Regarding why she made a move into the independent stream, Joy shared in an interview:

I started so young in CCM, and as I look back at who I was at 17, I realize I was willing to be more of a mouthpiece than necessarily an artist. As the years went by, I started recognizing that the music that I connected with the most was honest and open and broken and mostly written by the artists themselves.

Even in the midst of minor chords and dissonant harmonies, there is an implicit hope to the bluesy undertones of the Civil Wars’ music, which I love. Joy says:

I don’t believe that faith is always meant to be safe… I’ve gotten older and been married almost five years and I’ve lived a little bit more of life. I know now that so much of life is really broken, and there is beauty and strength in that acknowledgment.

Much like their predecessors, John Paul and Joy sing from somewhere deep in the soul, and it’s hard not to be moved by the heartfelt stories told through song.

My wife and I recently saw the Civil Wars play at a show in Florence, Alabama (near where John Paul was raised and Barton Hollow is allegedly located).

We bought the album and proceeded to listen to it for the rest of the two-hour drive home. And then, I listened to it for the rest of the week. It’s one that will be on repeat in my car for awhile, I’m sure.

For more about this group, read an interview that Paste Magazine did with them: Best of What’s Next: The Civil Wars

For an idea of what we experienced the other night, read this: Live Review: The Civil Wars