The Civil Wars © KLRU by Scott Newton

The Civil Wars

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Civil Wars Season 38 by Andrea Good

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photo by Leslie Nichols

The Civil Wars embody an elegant sensibility that represents the power lingering in modesty. Through their intimate vocal arrangements and ethereal vocals, Joy Williams and John Paul White create Appalachian-tinged folk melodies with a minimalist approach that has caught the folk-pop world by storm. Tonight the duo brings their dynamic chemistry to the Austin City Limits stage to perform tracks from their Grammy-winning debut Barton Hollow.

Influenced respectively by their native Southern and California roots, White and Williams came together unexpectedly in Nashville in 2008 while attending a songwriting session. The two had not been acquainted musically or even personally, but after playing together briefly it was certain the duo was heading in the same musical direction. White said,” I’ve done lots of co-writes and collaborative situations, but I’d never felt that weird spark, that weird familiarity like we’d been in a family band or something most of our lives.” Shortly afterward they recorded an EP titled Poison and Wine, the title track of which gained overnight success after being used on Grey’s Anatomy. “As aching as their voices and their lyrics may be,” wrote the New York Daily News, “it’s the music’s precision that really beguiles.”

Barton Hollow, their 2011 full-length debut, proved to be instantly rewarding for the duo as well, becoming the No. 1 most downloaded album on iTunes within a week of its release. Called a “minimalist gem, a perfect vocal marriage, a still river running deep” by NPR, Barton Hollow appeared on multiple Best Albums of 2011 lists. The Civil Wars received Grammy Awards for Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance, along with numerous other awards.

Time writes, “the Nashville songwriters meld their vocals together…to create bold harmonies that are so attention-grabbing, you don’t even initially notice that their only accompaniment is an acoustic guitar.”

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