The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow || Music Review

April 15, 2011 Music Reviews

Barton Hollow


The Civil Wars bank on the strength of their voices through harmony and well-designed hooks in their debut album, Barton Hollow. They make a candid, strong showing in a duo genre that can so easily skew towards the contrived and phony.

Track Highlights

“Poison & Wine”

A lovely building tune that relies on the call and response play of vocalists Joy Williams and John Paul White. Wonderful harmonies and a marching drum beat make this a very affective song.

“Barton Hollow”

The radio single off the album, “Barton Hollow” is a rollicking Americana track. Well suited for fans of blues, country, and rock & roll alike this one is a romp through damp forests and swampy riverbeds.

“I’ve Got This Friend”

Here is where the identity of The Civil Wars really shines. With heavy reliance on vocal ability, melody, and harmony doubling, this track is representative of what makes this duo click. It’s a light and syncopated number that allows the simplicity of the lyric and the beauty of the vocal interplay to be front and center.

“Girl With the Red Balloon”

A haunting waltz that tells the story of the one that got away. Using the imagery of a balloon floating into the sky, The Civil Wars create a space full of disappointment and a nearly nightmarish existence. This is one of the more creative songwriting ventures on Barton Hollow.

The Final Say

Riding on the successes of such duos as Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of Once fame, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their Grammy award winning collaboration Raising Sand, The Civil Wars step into the field with ease. A very natural pairing both in vocal style and songwriting, perhaps it’s fitting that they choose to be known by a singular band name rather than the sum of two parts.

With enough variation and flavor to keep it interesting, Barton Hollow is the kind of album you put on from start to finish. It sets a distinctly rural mood yet transcends genre designation, flirting with country, indie, folk, and blues, to name a few. It’s as unpretentious as it gets for an independent singer/songwriter twosome. The Civil Wars have arrived as formidable musicians with their first full length album and it feels like they’ve been here all along.

Extra note: be sure to check out the bonus track “I Want You Back”, a co-opted cover version of The Jackson 5 hit song.



Buy the album on or in iTunes. To find out more about the album head over to its Wikipedia page.

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