I have simple rules for the music I listen to. 1) It must be bare - no overproduction, no swirling drum machines and random sampling, just raw, unadulterated talent. 2) It must evoke real emotion, both in the performers, and in me. No pain, no gain, so to speak. So imagine my joy when I stumbled upon The Civil Wars: two feverishly talented musicians with notes and lyrics that bespeak a fierceness of emotion we dare not discuss these days.
I first heard the song Poison and Wine (unquestionably my favorite on the album) last summer on TV as background music. I thought it was lovely, but promptly forgot all about it since no mention of the artist was made. Then along came a little movie called The Hunger Games. Enter Taylor Swift with a haunting ballad called Safe and Sound, (which The Civil Wars co-wrote and provide harmony) and two Grammys later (one for best folk album, one for best country duo performance) and suddenly people are starting to take notice.
Pop this one into your player--soft or loud, volume makes no difference here--and let the simple complexity of their harmonies wash over you. The title track, with its bawdy blues guitar and thumping rhythm is also not to be missed. For fans of the late great Nickel Creek or the current crossover of choice, Lady Antebellum, won't disappoint. Don't be surprised if you're not swept up in the sadness of it all.
Recommended by Jill Cluff