Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #32: "Barton Hollow" -- The Civil Wars

Is it folk? Is it country? Is it Johnny Depp's new musical vehicle? Ah, who cares -- terrific is what it is.

The Civil Wars emerged in 2011 as indie's answer to Lady Antebellum. A male-female singing duo with twangy vocals and a penchant for sweet-sounding harmonies, Joy Williams and John Paul White caught everyone's attention -- including one Taylor Swift.

And it's easy to see why. Both Williams' and White's voices are exceptionally good. Slightly rootsy, slightly country -- very cross-genre, all in all, which presents the opportunity for crossover appeal. Sure enough, the band was nominated for two GRAMMYs this year, and in two different genres -- folk and country.

"Barton Hollow" is the duo's best song for a number of reasons. Its alt-country thud is highly appealing, the driving rhythm beneath a bluesy guitar riff. The duo's voices mix and mingle effortlessly, especially hitting a stride in each's higher register. Lyrically, it's dark. "I'm a dead man walking here / But that's the least of all my fears," White sings at the song's onset, setting us up for a lively Americana jaunt.

Elsewhere on the record, The Civil Wars tread a line closer to alt-folk or straight Americana, but with "Barton Hollow," it's easy to see why some consider the band to be a candidate for future country prominence. And to be quite honest, since this is where the band hits its stride most noticeably, perhaps a career move is in order -- that is, let's see an entire album of "Barton Hollow"s.

If The Civil Wars can do that, look out.

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