The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars
With three Grammys on their mantelpiece, The Civil Wars’ slick output has no shortage of admirers. The secrets of their success are obvious: both Joy Williams and John Paul White have expressive voices that harmonise beautifully, and when their muses align they have an instinctive feel for timeless country-soul songwriting (for instance, tumultuous ballad The One That Got Away – made more interesting in light of the duo’s public fall-out last year, which led to tour cancellations citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences”).
However, for every drop of glossy appeal there’s a gallon of blandness to swallow first – and when they get it wrong (e.g. an insipid cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm), they get it very wrong. Ultimately, for a duo whose professional partnership was already assumed fractured-beyond-repair, it’s the workmanlike-aspects of this state of the union address that prove most damning, suggestive as they are of a musical relationship coasting on fumes. [Chris Buckle]