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4.6 out of 5 stars187
4.6 out of 5 stars
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A trip to Memphis Tennessee a few years back continues to pay dividends and can I thank a number of American friends for this recommendation. The Civil Wars are a duo consisting of John Paul White, hailing from Florence, Alabama and Joy Williams, originally from Santa Cruz, CA, but now residing in East Nashville. They have already altruistically shared a free concert album "Live at Eddie's attic" which remains available on their My Space site for those of you seeking fine new music and now we have this wonderful debut album "Barton Hollow" to delight our aural senses. The word which best epitomises this record is "passionate". Check out the performance of the swampy folk title track they unveiled on the Jay Leno show and try not to be smitten by its drive and force. There certainly is a kind of "mixed doubles" Avett Brothers quality to their music but equally, the duo evokes the fine pedigree of a Welch and Rawlings with their great singing voices and haunting melodies.

At the heart of "Barton Hollow" is the songwriting and none is finer that the brilliant alt-country ballad "Poison and Wine" possibly the finest song I have heard this year and one you should send out a search party to locate. It builds slowly and deliberately and the vocals of White, in particular, resonate with emotion, building to a lovely climax. Opener "20 years" harks bark to that great forgotten American duo the Swell Season and is a heartbreaking country lament destined to take Nashville by storm. It is a song that Emmylou Harris should record immediately. "The girl with the red balloon" has an ancient quality about it which the Fleet Foxes tapped into on their eponymous debut, while the haunting instrumental "Violet Hour" repays repeated plays. Anyone who listens to the beautiful "Falling" where this time Williams emerges as a true star, is destined to emerge with a broken heart, ditto the wistful "To whom it may concern" a rolling acoustic ballad so light it could be lifted by a breeze. All this points to the chemistry between the two singers which must suggest more than a platonic friendship bearing in mind the intensity they whip up on songs like the pure Nashville orientated "Forget me not" which had this reviewer daydreaming of fond memories of the Parsons and Harris classic partnership. A debut this good deserves wider recognition not least in recent years since like-minded bands who have ploughed this furrow such as the Everbodyfields, Bowerbirds, Anthony Da Costa and Abby Gardner have not achieved their just desserts. The Civil Wars have been described as the coolest duo since the White Stripes an​ unfair comparison since they work in very different traditions. That said anyone who listens to the Civil Wars brilliant cover of the Jackson 5's "I want you back" must regret that they are not a public limited company since you will want a share of this action.

PS - their Oct 2011 performance on Jools Holland was scintillating including a cover of "Billie Jean" and a roaring version of this albums title track. Well worth seeking out.
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on 15 May 2011
This is a very good 12-song album that encompasses pop, folk, Americana, classical music and blues. The songs have tunes and interesting lyrics. They are expertly performed and deliciously sung. If you liked Jenny & Johnny's I'm Having Fun Now, you will absolutely love this album.
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on 13 April 2011
This is simply the best new country set i've heard in a long ,long time. The vocal harmonies are haunting and accompanied by sparce yet fluid arrangements that hypnotise and draw you in. As a debut album they may have just given themselves a massive task to better it with a follow up album, that said I hope they are prolific composers and that a second album won't be long. I for one will buy it. Anyone who has Duhks, Nickel Creek or Crooked Still albums must add this to their collections.
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on 24 October 2011
...then buy the album. This was a bit of an impulse purchase to be honest. I heard them on Later with Jools Holland and was transfixed by their harmonies - truly beautiful interweaving of voices with the guitar almost a third voice adding punctuation and emphasis. I was a little worried that my favourite song on the night (their rendition of Billie Jean) wasn't on the album and I might find that disappointing. I didn't - if you like any of their songs that you've heard then the album is worth getting.

One of the reviewers here really wasn't impressed by 'I've got this friend' and I find that perplexing, wonder if they were listening to the same song as me. I find a load of English music to be horribly over-produced and it's refreshing to hear such under-stated simple elegance in any music. Still it takes all sorts; some people listen to Radio 1, which totally mystifies me.

If you go to the American version of Amazon you can listen to clips of all the tracks - worth a visit if you're not sure.
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on 7 October 2011
I heard the Civil Wars perform Barton Hollow on Later with Joules Holland and bought this album the next day - its the best song Ive heard and I strongly recommend it to everyone!
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on 14 August 2011
It's not only the way they harmonise. It's the way Joy Williams' voice weaves around JP's lines. They both go their way but stay together. It's the quirky and often mystifying lyrics. It's the underlying humour. It's the total charisma. Oh yes, she's beautiful too but, hey, I can handle being in love.
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on 15 January 2012
Really enjoyed this album despite all the massive and overblown hype.The songs and the inter-changing of the singing parts works extremely well.Some of the songs drag slightly but that is not anyway being critical of the expertise shown in their song writing.There is no doubt that their singing styles come together well and its probably safe to say that it won't be until their next album that The Civil Wars true staying power can be assessed but Barton Hollow is by all accounts a great start.
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on 20 September 2013
I first heard about The Civil Wars when the collaborated with Taylor Swift on 'Safe and Sound'. I then checked out their music, and I did like it but I never got around to buying the album. Then this year The Civil Wars came out with their self-titled second album and I started listening to them again- and wow. I couldn't stop. They have so much raw talent. This album is much more acoustic-y than their second, which I have also written a review for. However, this makes this album much more haunting. Their vocal are perfect for each other and blend incredibly.
My favourite tracks are:
My Fathers Father- The 'dark horse' of the album. Very folksy. Simple but beautiful.
Barton Hollow- Amazing southern rock song. Amazing vocals.
20 Years- Quite haunting really, I like how vague the lyrics are.
C'est La Mort- Incredible lyrics, I never realised until I read them. Haunting, again.
Falling- Haunting, very haunting. Could possibly be a song from a Tim Burton film.
Poison and Wine- Very simple, but very, very good. Warming.
I also purchased the Deluxe version, which has various bonus songs.
My favourite song from it is (this is one of my favourites of the whole album actually):
Goodbye Girl [acoustic]- This is probably the song that has the most conventional structure to it. What I would think is the most 'relate able' song of theirs even though I don't my self. I could really see Taylor Swift covering this. As it's got her usual song structure, and her relate able lyrics, which she is know for. Truly a great song.

I recommend this album, actually this band 100%. Excellent.
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on 25 July 2012
I discovered the civil wars via Taylor Swift as they recorded a song 'Safe and Sound' with her as part of the Hunger Games Soundtrack, I'm so glad I listened to that song or I would never have heard the Civil Wars and this album, which is beautiful. It is interesting that they won a Grammy in both the Country and Folk categories as it seems that it is hard to put them in just one category. This album is a bit folky and and bit country and it is a perfect blend of many things, the songs are brilliant and so well written. The album is not over produced and it has a feel as though it were all simply live recordings. I loved Joy William's voice as soon as I heard it, she has a beautiful folk quality, it took more time for me to like John Paul, but when I listened to this album I could hear how well their voices work together, it's a perfect partnership of both singing and song writing. They both play instruments on the album too.

This version has extra tracks which I love 'Billie Jean' 'Dance me to the end of love' and 'I want you back' are stand out tracks of the extra ones.

My favouries of the others are '20 years' 'C'est la mort' 'Barton Hollow' 'I've got this friend' 'poison and wine'. I could almost list the whole album, I love how some songs are really chill style, but others like 'Barton Hollow' really hit you, all of tracks have beautiful mealodies and the arrangements are simple sometimes with just a few instruments, which really brings out the blend of the voices and harmonies of the songs.

I'm so glad I got this album and you don't have to be a huge country fan to love it as long as you love great songs and great singing this is the best album to get
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on 22 October 2011
I'm not naturally a fan of country music, although I guess real fans of that genre wouldn't consider TCW to be 'one of them'. That's all to the good so far as I'm concerned, because this is simply beautiful, beguiling music that transcends categorisation. All of the songs here are great, but two stand out. To Whom It May Concern brought me to tears - a heartbreaking melody, and those lyrics!- just superb. Poison & Wine is probably their best known song, and it's another stunner. If you appreciate great songwriting and wonderful vocal harmonies, just buy it - please.
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