From the first moment Joy Williams and John Paul White (of The Civil Wars) took their place on the stage at the Triple Door – he in a tux, she in a black cocktail dress – from the first note strummed on the guitar, and from the first sound that issued from their lips the audience was entranced and delighted. It was obvious that this lyric from the outset of their first song, “Tip of My Tongue,” matched their own personal musical experience happening right before our eyes: Your mouth is a melody I’ve memorized. . .
The Civil Wars – photo by Nate Watters
The way Williams swayed her hips in a girlish fashion, holding out her hands and swinging her arms, the way their voices moved in and out of carefully calculated harmony and melody . . . it seemed too good to be true. We laughed and cheered at the near absurdity of their perfect vocal blend in the middle of the songs, because, well, it just wasn’t an option to be quiet any longer.
Too often we give the stage, the mic, and all of our attention to self-proclaimed stars who have been packaged, who have the presentation down but lack any sort of musical or vocal prowess. In this kind of culture, it is always refreshing to be reminded that there is exceptional talent and songwriting still left to be heard. The Civil Wars exemplify this ideal.
This dynamic duo prove that there is lots of fun left to be had, as well . . . they smirk back and forth at each other as they hold an unspoken but obvious competition over who can hold out the note the longest. Williams is playful, moving close to him, tapping his guitar. He approaches her, smiling and singing into her ear. Their interaction onstage seemed to be that of an older couple who have had many years of knowing each other – every breath nuanced, every sway coordinated. They move up and down together, crescendoing and decrescendoing in perfect unison.
When Joy Williams explains their story as musicians, she says this of their first songwriting session, “as soon as I heard him sing, it’s as if I knew where he was going.” Well, that much seems obvious. And even if we don’t exactly where these two are headed next, we know they are going together…and if one thing’s for sure, we are definitely enjoying the journey.
Review by Jeremy Calvo