One can’t help but cringe imagining the recording process for this entire album. The Civil Wars‘ new self-titled record (August 6) was made after a run of canceled tour dates signaled an indefinite hiatus due to “irreconcilable differences.” They won two Grammys in 2012, a third in 2013 with Taylor Swift, and went gold with Barton Hollow after having been an outfit for only three years, but there’s enough animosity between them that they’re no longer speaking. Instead of abandoning this environment, singers Joy Williams and John Paul White aired their grievances lyrically, and then sang them together. The resulting, highly uncomfortable swan song meets orchestrated car crash is catnip to fans and bystanders alike. Here are the top five most wince-worthy moments from The Civil Wars.
Jumping right into it, singers Joy Williams and John Paul White harmonize together about wishing they’d never crossed paths on this lead off. Sure, the message has a romantic filter and the two were never an item, but we can still surmise that this is the angry fruits of post-fight labor. As an added bonus, check out the twitchy body language in the behind-the-scenes video. For what it’s worth, they certainly know how to make a few extra bucks off their feud, “reality TV” style: [LISTEN]
This “ache of monogamy” track gets real as Williams and White do the dirty work to dig their respective marriages out of a rut (caused largely by this band). As for the singers’ relationship with each other, the “same old” touring grind proved to be something they just “couldn’t do:” [LISTEN]
“Dust to Dust,” as the duo have called it, is their “ode to the end,” even though they haven’t officially “broken up” as much as taken a break. Cryptic marketing aside, this ballad reflects yet again their spousal separation anxiety – they’ve been “lonely too long.” You can’t help but wonder if maybe they really did have a fling on the road to cope…? Either way, nothing quite gets you intimate with another person like touring – a level of intimacy that can get you at their throats and yet still alienate your loved ones at home: [LISTEN]
“Devil’s Backbone” is essentially a modern, criminal take on the ‘good-hearted woman in love with a good timin’ ma’ country staple, wherein the “good-hearted woman” (Williams) takes the “blame.” However, it may also reflect the personality differences hinted at in interviews, called “different work styles.” If that’s just a red herring, we’ve still got lyrics about loving someone “on the run,” which can definitely be said for Williams’ and White’s spouses. Call it a stretch, but I’d certainly feel uneasy recording any of these songs inches away from my combatant, regardless: [LISTEN]
Williams threatens to kill her fictional man “Henry” if he’s cheatin’, but let’s skip that and over-analyze these lyrics. After all, if they can use this drama to sell a few more records, then we get to use our interest to conjure unfounded, gossipy fan-fiction about them. With that in mind, what if Williams’ warnings are really directed at the duo, should they have been tempted to cheat with each other on their spouses? Again, it’s a stretch, but hey – they told listeners “if you want to know what happened, listen to the record,” so that’s our prerogative: [LISTEN]