13th March 2012
The Civil Wars – Live at HMV Institute Birmingham
In their first gig of their first headlining tour outside of America, The Civil Wars are visibly struck by the reception they receive: a standing ovation before they even start; but one that is ultimately deserved. Fresh from the release of their excellent debut album, ‘Barton Hollow’, the sheer musicianship of vocalist Joy Williams and guitarist/vocalist John Paul White is genuinely astounding. In a world where a larger emphasis is placed upon the album itself, with touring acting as a sideshow, The Civil Wars really inject something extra special into the album, making it come alive, inviting everyone to enjoy a little taste of southern America.
This is helped extensively by the chemistry between the two performers; Joy, the ever excitable smiling face of the band; and John Paul, interjecting with the occasionally witty observation in a deep southern drawl. The set up of just one guitar and two voices is both fresh and completely successful, leading some audience members to raise their hands or rock as if in some spiritual environment, the emphatic lead single ‘Barton Hollow’ an example of this. There is a distinct delicacy to their music, both a necessity due to the instrumental set up, but also one utilised to maximum effect, resulting in a precision I consider to be unmatched by anything I have seen in a long time.
Thoroughly deserving of the two Grammys they won this year, an event in which they also performed, they remain criminally underrated, especially in this country, where indeed most forms of music influenced by ‘country’ are largely ignored, or left to stagnate in the doldrums of a Radio 2 playlist.
However, this is all set to change. Having recorded the soundtrack to the new film’ The Hunger Games’, featuring the highest earner in pop music for 2011, Taylor Swift, there is going to be a lot more attention given to this band, which may lead to a more deserved recognition. And with this new admiration and appreciation, surely The Civil Wars are on the brink of a musical revolution.