You wouldn’t expect a band that broke up mid-tour to release another album after such a painful disunion, but that’s just what The Civil Wars have done with their self-titled second album, out Tuesday.
For John Paul White and Joy Williams, the recriminations start flinging about immediately. On “The One That Got Away” the pair take turns lamenting that the other was in fact the one that ended up staying.
It’s a true shame that The Civil Wars are done because their final work together is a growling, churning, often quite beautiful collection of songs that highlights just why Williams and White work so well together.
The stripped down “Same Old Same Old” takes advantage of the interplay between their voices as they ask, “Do I love you/Oh I do/And I think I’m going to ’til I’m gone.” But in the same verse Williams concludes “But if you think I can stay in this/Same old, same old/Well, I don’t.”
These are the regrets of old lovers, and while the duo were never romantically linked, their interpersonal turmoil makes for some electric moments.
“The Civil Wars” is not all original tunes. They also provide a haunting cover of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” as well as a somber version of Etta James’ “Tell Mama.”
The album, the work of two people who still care for each other staring across the void of irreconcilable differences, is a painful, intimate window into their relationship. It’s also quite good, making The Civil Wars’ breakup all the worse.
Follow Owen R. Smith on Twitter @inanedetails