I lived in Nashville, TN for a time and, thus, still keep in contact with many friends from the area. They’ve been telling me about Nashville duo The Civil Wars for quite awhile now. Admittedly, I sometimes brush off music recommendations but in this instance I’m really glad I listened. And I’m glad the rest of the world is listening too.

The Civil Wars played to a sold out crowd at Austin’s Paramount Theatre on Thursday, January 19th. On the heels of successful songs like “Poison & Wine” and “Barton Hollow,” a mob of people (seriously, so many people!) filed into the theatre in anticipation of an incredible night of music. It certainly was. It was one of those shows that reminded me why I truly love music…

What I love about The Civil Wars is that they’re capable of creating a pure, rich, and powerful sound simply with their voices and a guitar (and sometimes a piano). They took the, dare I say, near perfection of their debut album, Barton Hollow, and brought a whole new depth and character to the songs. I felt emotionally invested in the songs, both happy and sad, and it was clear that the members of the duo, Joy Williams and John Paul White, were too. This was especially true for Joy. She’s one of the most charming performers I’ve seen. She was visibly wrapped up in music, doing what I can only describe as a restrained interpretive dance to the rhythm. She would also step away from the microphone during instrumental breaks and continue to “oh” and “whoa” to the tune as if she couldn’t help herself. In addition to Joy’s charm, the chemistry between Joy and John Paul was palpable and endearing. They would watch each closely to make sure their harmonies were in sync, challenge one another, play off of each other, and do little motions to make the other smile or laugh. There’s something really special about seeing musicians enjoying themselves on stage.

The set list was a nice mix of album tracks and covers. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Because of their harmonies and simple instrumentation, The Civil Wars are able to totally transform songs like  the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” to sound like their own. In fact, it didn’t occur to me that they’d performed Smashing Pumpkin’s “Disarm” until later that evening when the lyrics finally clicked. They breathe new life into old favorites and their version of “Billie Jean” just might be my favorite interpretation of the song.

The Civil Wars will be taping their first Austin City Limits episode, and the first of the 38th season, on February 29th. Stay tuned to ACL’s blog for ticket giveaways. This will be a good one.

– Submitted by Jessica Reed, Social Media