Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Defense of The Civil Wars

I didn't think it would be possible for me to stumble across anything more unpleasant to listen to than the music of Lady Antebellum (see previous post where I compare them to "what cancer sounds like"). Perhaps I was underestimating the power of commercial country radio when I made that statement.

Congratulations, The Band Perry, you have met the challenge and succeeded wildly! The Massengil family should consider filing libel litigation against these guys for the bad name their watery stool blend of music is giving to douches. Seriously, even Darryl Worley seems pH balanced compared to the vinegar soaked death knell that TBP adds to the genre.

Get the picture? Not a fan.

So if these guys are so bad, why I am giving them a plug? Ironically, I am using the retch inducing tunes of TBP to promote a band that I am quickly becoming a lukewarm fan of, The Civil Wars.

When I first saw promos for The Civil Wars, I immediately wrote them off as another Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry clone (or any other band with a stylist and a J.Crew catalog instead of actual songs - also see Mumford and Sons). Their sepia toned glossies, vintage Col. Sanders wear, and pretentious name smacked of every terrible cliche that the feculent new wave of mainstream country music has ushered in. I stand corrected.

Where I thought that TCW was just another factory produced migraine gunning for the crown once prestigiously held by such luminary giants as Rascall Flatts and Lady A, The Civl Wars would have a hard time getting any mainstream airplay were it not for a polished, marketing approved image that presents them as a sensitive Jack White and a doe eyed muse (keep in mind, I said I like their tunes; the videos are another story).

Ok, long ramble for something that I am (again) only partially sold on. However, I haven't written in a while, and I am wound tight on a triple espresso and Adderall this morning which translates into a flurry of parenthesis, run on sentences and vitriol.

When I first heard the track "Barton Hollow" pop up on shuffle the other day, I first thought it might be a track from the highly underrated Kasey Chambers/Shane Nicholson disc. After going back to check it out, I was surprised to find out that it was The Civil Wars. Even the single from the disc, "Poison & Wine" is extremely pleasant if not a little touch heavy on the drama. Their midtempo tracks feature the slide and swagger of something near Chambers meets Sara Watkins. On the ballads, they kind of remind me of Swell Season, with a banjo and a jug of Yellow Tail Merlot instead of a piano and a few pints of Guiness.

Most of the disc does land somewhere over in the minor key, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming. Kudos for them being able to pull this off on a debut disc with a fairly substantial runtime. Few artists can pull off this much of this type of material without all of the songs turning into a blurry tearstained mess, and the lyrics having to reach into the grab bag of country misery Mad Libs (cancer, veterans, Obama...).

So until they end up on tour opening up for Sugarland or Michelle Bachman, feel free to enjoy the elegant melancholy of The Civil Wars.

Barton Hollow.mp3

Poison & Wine.mp3

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