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Barton Hollow
The Civil Wars Barton Hollow
Released 2 March 2012
Producer Charlie Peacock
Label Sensibility
Length 60:49 (special edition)
Genre Folk rock, alternative
Website www.thecivilwars.com

Barton Hollow is the debut album by double Grammy award winning Nashville country-folk duo of John-Paul White and Joy Williams, collectively known as The Civil Wars.

After a few listens and seeing them live one would assume that they’re husband and wife but they are in fact happily married to other people. They seem to have great banter together, like they’ve been together forever. This really shows up on this rather excellent album. It sounds like they are having the time of their lives playing these songs.

Proceedings start with the plucked acoustic guitar of '20 Years' and the cracking opening line, "There’s a note underneath the front door, that I wrote twenty years ago. Yellow paper and a faded picture. And a secret in an envelope." which really sets the ball rolling for the rest of the album. The kind of cutesy bounce of 'I’ve Got This Friend' follows before the middle section of the album gets going with the rather stunning piano led ballad 'Poison & Wine'. Its repeated chorus of, "I don’t love you but I always will", builds throughout the song and sucks you in.

All these tracks seem to flow effortlessly from one to the next. The best song here by far is the title track. It is also the most different sounding song here. It’s got a real heavy guitar/bass stomp to it and also some quite eerie whispered vocals towards the end. A brilliant track which John-Paul White announced at the recent gig in Dublin’s Academy as the last song they wrote for the album.

Things quieten down somewhat with the piano instrumental 'The Violet Hour' - the calm after the storm. Another country tinged song 'Forget Me Not' follows suit with its excellent steel guitar and fiddle playing.

This is a rather surprisingly good album. One that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy. This is normally not my cup of tea. If they did not include the title track, I think it would have been somewhat boring. This really elevates the album for me.

The Civil Wars are playing Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Monday 29th October.

- Leon Byrne