The Civil Wars' self-titled CD is pure bliss


The Civil Wars performs at Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in this Oct. 14 2012 file photo.

John Davisson/Invision/AP
Published: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.

The behind-the-music drama alone should propel The Civil Wars' self-titled, sophomore CD to the top of the charts. The CD was made, apparently, as tensions boiled over between its sole members, Joy Williams and John Paul White. As the band's self-titled CD greets its public this week, the Grammy-winning duo remains on hiatus. Williams contends they have not spoken to each other for the best part of a year.

Too bad. The CD at hand is pure bliss.

Turmoil begets fine art, and, man oh man, this is fine art.

It is exactly what you would expect from a harmony-rich, moody alt-folk pair completely fed up with each other. It is dark with rougher edges. Their amazing voices — and they are simply euphoric here — are backed by fuller arrangements. The duo's tent-revival clapper “From This Valley,” already a concert and YouTube favorite, gets a studio version with some rich Nashville layers.

The opening single, “The One That Got Away,” sets an appropriate tone. It's beautiful and heartbreaking alone, but more so knowing what we know. Williams caresses and cradles the words, but belts out the line “Oh, I wish I'd never ever seen your face.” You have to wonder (a) if White is the target, (b) if the feeling is mutual and, if so, (c) how in the world did they complete this glorious set together? Their voices fold so sweetly into each other despite the tension between them.

Perhaps, if this is a swan song, they will pursue solo careers. Both are gifted musicians.

But it is hard to imagine one without the other; it has been a long time since music has seen this kind of chemistry. If this is the last we hear of The Civil Wars, this disc will be a torch for an angry mob.

It is a passionate disc. And for fans, this passion evokes a definitive response: Hey, Civil Wars! GET OVER IT ALREADY!

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