Ain’t going back to Barton Hollow
Devil gonna follow me e’er I go
Won’t do me no good washing in the river
Can’t no preacher man save my soul
I have an unfortunate susceptibility to earworms—those catchy snatches of melody that get stuck in your head for hours on end, sometimes for days. The lines above have been in my head for at least 48 hours now, the latest in a succession of songs from Barton Hollow that have infiltrated my subconscious brain. I’m writing this post in the hopes that by spreading the word about The Civil Wars, I can get them out of my head, and into yours. A musical exorcism, if you will. You’re welcome.
The Civil Wars are a duo: California girl Joy Williams and Alabama native John Paul White. They’re musical partners, not husband and wife, but you might guess otherwise from their close harmonies. They sing together like a long-married couple on the dance floor, melody and harmony swinging each other around with ease. I “discovered” this album a few days before it won a Grammy for Best Folk Album of 2012, so you don’t have to take my word for it!
“C’est La Mort” was the first melody that took root, a lullaby-like tune so sweet and perfect that I was sure I was remembering it, not hearing it for the first time. This one and “Birds of a Feather” are beautiful sweet-sinister love songs, for those moth-to-a-flame relationships, caught between love and destruction. “My Father’s Father” is your train song — gotta have a train song on a country album! — and the harmonies capture perfectly that sound of a far-off lonesome whistle in the middle of the night. The title song, “Barton Hollow” is a great one for wailing along with in the car:
Did that full moon force my hand?
Or that unmarked hundred grand?
“Forget Me Not” is another of those tunes that sounds as though it must have already existed, with a harmony that takes you straight back to Phil and Don Everly’s “Let It Be Me.” Confidential to my (hypothetical) future bridesmaids: you can sing this one at my (hypothetical) future wedding.
Check the WRL catalog for Barton Hollow.