I’m pretty proud of myself this weekend. I’ve completed a long run (16k), a long bike (57k) and a long swim (4300m). I rule! Making even sweeter is that I still feel pretty fresh, which is a good sign that I’m doing the right things and my fitness is beginning to improve. I decided then that after back to back long workouts (bike/swim) that I’d treat myself to a little downtime on my mat with some slow yoga stretching and debut album by The Civil Wars, ‘Barton Hollow‘.
I was first turned onto this husband/wife duo – this album in particular – about two years ago (maybe three) by Auntie Amy shortly before I started this blog. I remember really enjoying them but I never really get around to listening to it again. I decided then to right that wrong this afternoon given how much I enjoyed their follow up album a few weeks ago (click HERE). Back then, I thought “hey, that’s a cool name for a band”. And I liked their sound too, sure, but now after having recently finished watching the entire Ken Burns ‘Civil War‘ PBS documentary (click HERE) I am thinking, this is the perfect band name given their unique sound. It genuinely does sound like something that might have been around and being performed back then.
The album was originally released in 2011 and became the #1 downloaded album on iTunes that same week. Who knew Auntie Amy was so trendy? It would go on to chart at #1 on the Billboard Folk Albums chart, and #2 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart, selling 25,000 copies in its first week. It was nominated for Grammys in the Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance categories (the latter for the title song) – it ended up winning both awards. Numerous publications though still felt that they were snubbed the Best New Artist nomination by The Grammys. Not bad for a couple of folksters, right?
It’s both passionate and haunting at the same time. The album opener ‘20 Years‘ harkens back to some great forgotten and heartbreaking country lament; something you might hear Emmylou Harris perform. ‘I’ve Got This Friend‘ is pretty as is ‘To Whom It May Concern‘. At the heart of the album is the brilliant alt country ballad ‘Poison and Wine‘, an aching, gorgeous tribute to a relationship on the rocks. It’s one of the few tracks on the album to include more than an acoustic guitar, with some piano and soft drums also making their way into the mix. It builds slowly and deliberately and the vocals of John Paul White in particular resonate with emotion, building to a lovely climax; perfect listening for the downbeat and relaxing stretch I’m having in the corner of this completely vacant gym. And then there’s the title track, with its outlaw lyrics and swanky Southern groove…absolutely gorgeous.
I do admit though, that I finished listening to the rest of album while sitting at The Sanctuary over a “recovery” bowl of roasted carrot and ginger soup and a pint of Fenian Red Ale. Now, I know this might appear to some as a total social faux pas to sit at a bar with your earplugs planted into your skull, but given I had no particular interest in either the football game on the television or following conversation the douchy-hipster guy beside me was having into his cell phone at the top of his voice, I’m figuring this was the lesser evil. Among these last few songs include the bonus studio covers of the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back‘, Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean‘, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance Me to the End of Love‘ and Jimmie Davis’ ‘You Are My Sunshine‘, which are perfectly suited to the unique delivery that the couple provide.
All in all, a great listen, a great stretch and, shit, good soup to boot! A perfect way to wrap up a weekend’s worth of long workouts.