The Civil Wars’ new self titled album is everything expected from the popular duo. Barton Hollow, their debut album, quickly became a cultural phenomenon and placed extremely high expectations on the pair’s second album.
The Civil Wars deliver on all levels, expanding on their signature sound and revisiting the soulful, melancholic tunes that made them so popular in the first place.
In their second album they abandon the high brow intellectualism that defined Barton Hollow and instead embark on a raw, emotional journey.
The album’s opening track is by the far the most powerful and haunting. “The One That Got Away” captures vocalist Joy Williams at her best. Her voice is heartbreak itself. The track capitalizes on the theme that made The Civil Wars so popular in the first place, love that is impossible to quit. Unfortunately the album has been overshadowed by the strained relationship between bandmates Joy Williams and John Paul White. Knowledge of the pairs decision to separate has given the album a mystical aura and almost religious appeal. The hysteria surrounding the album may be more a result of the circumstances surrounding its release than the music itself.
While The Civil Wars created a solid album, it is nowhere near as groundbreaking as Barton Hollow and has become little more than a pawn in the publicity game surrounding the band.
The music taken by itself is beautiful, but when viewed in the context of the circumstances surrounding its’ creation, the complex artistry of the piece is lost in the drama surrounding the artists. Regardless of their personal struggles, The Civil Wars have once again made themselves a cultural phenomenon.