The cover art to The Civil Wars’ self-titled sophomore album depicts a vast, billowing plume of black smoke, suggestive, perhaps, of a smoldering relationship that eventually ignited and left some unpleasant fallout. Right now, despite this release, the vehicle of singer-songwriters John Paul White and Joy Williams, The Civil Wars, is no more. The record was put together late in 2012, seemingly just as the duo called time midway through a European tour, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition” as reasons for the “hiatus.”
That said, the music doesn’t show signs of suffering from this creative fission, the record as compelling as its Grammy-winning predecessor, 2011′s Barton Hollow. Of course, there’s nothing to say that great art can’t come from internal strife – just look at Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, for one.
White’s delivery meshes perfectly with Williams’ remarkably pure vocal tone to create an intimacy that verges on the claustrophobic. From the country swing of “From The Valley” to the fulsome blues rock of “Oh Henry”, the album is instrumentally heavier than its predecessor, and this makes the stripped-down songs stand out to greater effect. So, the bittersweet blowout of “Same Old Same Old” and shaded intensity of the Smashing Pumpkins cover, “Disarm”, claim their space.
There might not be a “Poison & Wine” here, but taken as a whole, The Civil Wars is a more consistent collection than Barton Hollow. Chances are these songs will endure, but hopefully the hiatus won’t.- Consequence Of Sound