I first became aware of Joy Williams and John Paul White, the duo that make up The Civil Wars, this time last year. They made quite an impression on people attending the SXSW Festival, and a friend told me about how their live show in Austin really impressed him. Since then, they’ve toured constantly in support of their excellent debut album, Barton Hollow.
They remind me of a cross between the quieter moments of The White Stripes with the commercial appeal and harmonies of Lady Antebellum. It’s a potent mixture of indie and mainstream, and their vocal arrangements rival the Indigo Girls.
When they played the basement at The Slaughtered Lamb here in London last summer, my guest said it was the best acoustic live show he’d ever seen. They played a few months later at my favourite indoor London venue, Union Chapel, and another mate instantly became a fan that night.
Fresh off their double Grammy win, it’s great to see Barton Hollow get a wider release this week on Columbia. This new version boasts some wonderful bonus tracks, including their show-stopping cover of Billie Jean, Leonard Cohen’s sublime Dance Me to the End of Love and others.
Here’s a recent video filmed in London of them covering Portishead’s Sour Times, which is a b-side of the Billie Jean 7″ inch single released for Record Store Day.