Weekend Listening: Barton Hollow and The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars

19 February 2016 by 2 Comments

weekend listening Weekends are an amazing time to go record shopping or to go for a long drive with the windows down and the radio loud. Weekend Listening gives you music for all of your upcoming adventures.

Barton Hollow coverAlbum: Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars

Released: February 1, 2011 by sensibility

Recommended if you like: Folk rock, acoustic guitar, amazing storytelling

Notable Tracks: “I’ve Got This Friend,” “Barton Hollow”

I’m a member of a hymn-singing, keyboard-pounding, fiddle-playing, four-part-harmonizing-on-road trips hillbilly family, so a love of folk music is in my blood. And I thought I’d heard all the cool stuff until a coworker introduced me to The Civil Wars a few years back.

Back in the days when people used to actually buy CDs, you’d get an album, give it a listen, and decide that some of the songs were worth skipping. You will never think this about Barton Hollow (or any of The Civil Wars’ albums). To skip a song is to miss a one-of-a-kind harmony, a hummable melody, or a piece of the story that each album tells.

Barton Hollow begins with a series of love letters written to the person one misses without having met. The tunes are wistful, aching, longing, with line after line expressing the age-old desire to meet that one person who completes you. Halfway through the album our lovers meet, with songs like “Falling” and “Birds of a Feather” depicting a couple in love but unsure how to handle their relationship.

The album ends on a sweet note with the duo’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” but it’s clear that there’s trouble in paradise for our (presumably) young couple.

The Civil Wars released only one more album (The Civil Wars, 2013) before announcing their split in 2014, citing “irreconcilable differences of ambition.” To find out what happened to the band, member Joy Williams told the New York Times, fans would have to listen to the album.

The Civil Wars is a continuation of the story began in Barton Hollow, and it is brutal. “The One That Got Away” has the female protagonist lamenting the entire relationship, and “Eavesdrop” depicts a painful tug-of-war: wanting to be free from each other, but also clinging to the hope of what was once good. It’s a sad ending, but a beautiful story.

Add to all this the simple but stunning lyrics, beautiful acoustic melodies, and incredible vocals, and what you’ve got are — in my opinion — two albums that are as close to perfect as you can get.

Extra love goes to “Barton Hollow” (Barton Hollow) and “Devil’s Backbone” (The Civil Wars) for sounding exactly like old-timey folk music should.

Amy Peveto

Amy picked up her first book as a toddler and hasn’t been spotted without one since. She has an unhealthy obsession with refining her TBR list, and you’ll have to pry her ragged paperback copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice out of her cold, dead hands.

2 thoughts on “Weekend Listening: Barton Hollow and The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars

  1. What luck – those two songs of theirs are actually my favorites by them! I think I have all of their music in my New Music playlist on my Spotify which is about as long as the length of existence by now, so I’ll get around to listening to it all someday.

    • It’s all great stuff! I’ve been a Pandora gal for a long time, but I’ve been hearing a lot about Spotify recently…might be time to switch.

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