Transparent mystery. Honest deception. Harmonic dissonance. Name your paradox, and you can be sure The Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White) brought it to Nashville on Wednesday night. The duo’s Nashville return brought throngs of people to the historic Belcourt Theatre. The fullness of the sold-out auditorium was in stark contrast to the stage; Williams and White, four perfectly aged guitars, a keyboard, a couple mics, and a concertina named Gisele were its only inhabitants. A backdrop of tattered pages were a promise of stories to be told.
The Civil Wars kept that promise. Song after song after song, Williams and White engaged their captive audience and transcended that mystic barrier that so often exists between audience and performer. Aside from Joy’s black sequined cocktail dress and J.P.’s collar atop his bow-tie, starch and rigidity were left at the door. The crowd lost its Nashville-cool as White introduced “Barton Hollow,” the title track of their debut LP, which is currently the number one album on iTunes. The response as the pair’s voices faded out on the last “Can’t no preacher man save my soul,” was equally raucous. To which, White replied, “Damn, we can play it again! Hell, we can play it all night! We got 85 more, folks… all ‘Barton Hollow’.” Laughter filled the room, but no one would have complained had White not been kidding. The duo made the theater chairs feel more like living room furniture with their sibling-like playfulness and leg pullin’, which could not be confined to the narrow gaps between each song. Equal parts mysterious, unnerving, inviting and cozy, The Civil Wars’ Belcourt Theatre show was a joy to behold.
Download The Civil Wars’ debut LP, Barton Hollow on iTunes, and head on over to thecivilwars.com for a free download of the “Barton Hollow” single.