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ALBUM REVIEW: The Civil Wars, 'The Civil Wars:' 'The One That Got Away' Band's Breakup Hard to Separate From Emotionally-Charged Second Record [VIDEO]

by Carolyn Menyes   Aug 8, 2013 22:47 PM EDT

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There was a lot of tension when The Civil Wars recorded its second self-titled album. The pain, anger and rifts that occurred between band members Joy Williams and John Paul White are hard to ignore when reviewing "The Civil Wars" because it seems to be all over the record.

Opening with the lead single, "The One That Got Away," which pleads "If I could go back in time when you only held me in my mind, / Just a longing gone without a face, / I wish I'd never ever seen your face, / I wish you were the one that got away," it's hard not to imagine that the band isn't singing about a romance gone bad, but about their musical relationship gone bad.

Lyrically, a troubled and crumbling romantic relationship is a theme throughout "The Civil Wars." "I want to leave you, / I want to lose us, / I want to give up, / But I won't, / 'Cause I do love you," White croons on "Same Old Same Old," a tender, slow song. "Oh Lord, what have I done? / I've fallen in love with a man on the run," Williams sings on "Devil's Backbone," which appears midway through the album.

Of course, there's also the band's much buzzed about cover of Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm." The 1994 single is almost unrecognizable in the beautiful Civil Wars cover, highlighted by quiet harmonizing between the two band mates and a soft, harp accompaniment. The swells in the chorus, wherein Williams and Whites' voices blend perfectly while singing "The killer in me is the killer in you" reminds listeners what exactly made The Civil Wars work in the first place.

That's not to say the whole album is a melodramatic, entangled relationship piece. There are a few country-heavy tracks on "The Civil Wars" that add a different kind of power to the album. "I Had Me A Girl" is a strained, old-fashioned country-crooner ballad. Similarly, "From This Valley" is a relatively upbeat, toe-tap inducing track that adds a not-so-miserable element to the record.

Like on their debut, "Barton Hollow," Williams and White have an undeniable connection on "The Civil Wars" and their chemistry shines through despite their troubled relationship. The way their voices intermingle on each and every track is an undeniable sonic pleasure.

If this is, in fact, The Civil Wars goodbye album, the duo leaves the music world on a good note. "The Civil Wars" is a beautiful record, chocked full of tension, harmony and every possible emotion a listener could want.

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