On their first visit to Utah, John Paul White and Joy Williams -- The Civil Wars -- promised the crowd at The State Room in Salt Lake City on Thursday they'd hear "folk." Never a million years did I think I'd hear Michael Jackson's trademark "Billie Jean" rendered in folk and that I'd absolutely love it.
Besides "Billie Jean" and "You Are My Sunshine" sung "darkly," the duo sang a host of original material ... "The Tip of My Tongue" and "Dance Me To The End of Love," among others. Williams' dulcet voice is intoxicating when layered with White's whispery vocals and gentle guitar. Together they led the audience on a aural yin and yang of romantic love in "Poison and Wine," which is available FREE.
Williams is a brunette sprite with a darling tease of a smile. You'd never hear her California roots when she sings "Barton Hollow." White, who's actually from Alabama, looks the refined mountain boy-man. They both wore wedding rings -- or at the least third finger left hand -- yet aren't married to each other. The stage chemistry between them is completely charming. Even the chit chat between songs, which typically appeals to me as much as nails on a chalk board, was genuinely likable.
The success that has landed The Civil Wars on the Jay Leno show, the Sundance Film Festival's Music Cafe, and on tour throughout the US despite their short history is easily explained. The Civil Wars are every music couple's music couple. Warm, silly, spontaneous, happy, and musically stunning. Yet their show was minimalist in so many ways: it wasn't long, it wasn't wide ranging in genres, and there wasn't a huge back up band or props. And besides the acoustical excellence, every minute was exquisitely well orchestrated.
The audience left energized and wanting more. It was nearly impossible to navigate in the lobby outside The State Room, as crowds waited for their photo opportunities and demo CD signings with the two. The Civil Wars has a new album coming out on February 1st and based on the crowd response at The State Room, they'll have a sellout.
If you missed seeing The Civil Wars at The State Room, you may be able to catch them in Park City at the Sundance Music Cafe during the coming week. Check their website for details.
Disclosure: Admission $12 + fees of $3.50. I did NOT receive payment for this review.