The Civil Wars Are Now A House Divided

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Citing ” irreconcilable differences of ambition” and “internal discord,” the two-time Grammy Award winning duo The Civil Wars have seemingly called it a day. They have cancelled their European and U.S. tour dates, however their official statement seems to have left the door open to making more music together. Thanking fans for their “love and support, Twitter followers were told to see the their website for a full statement and when the site crashed due to traffic, the following statement was broken into three tweets:

We sincerely apologize for the canceling of all of our tour dates. It is something we deeply regret. However, due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time. We thank each and every one of you for your amazing love & support. Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.”

In what is sure to be seen as a classy move, fans were further told (whether from the artists themselves or their management/promoters):

PS – We understand that there are many of you stuck with service charges and travel reservations due to our abrupt cancellations. Please email us at …if there are costs incurred that you would like to be reimbursed for, include a scan or attachment to your receipt(s) of the costs, and we will do our best to reimburse you for non-refundable charges.”

The Nashville-based duo is made up of Alabama native John Paul White and California transplant Joy Williams. The two met while attending a Nashville group writing session in 2008 and immediately found–quite literally–a voice in each other. A live recording of one of their first performances together  yielded 100,000 downloads and their first EP Poison and Wine found its title track featured on Grey’s Anatomy and The Vampire Diaries. The duo caught the ear of red-hot country-crossover artist Taylor Swift and and she tweeted to her myriad fans that she found The Civil Wars “exquisite.” Producer Charlie Peacock produced the initial EP and now there was a hungry public clamoring to know who sang the song on Grey’s. This, along with Swift’s endorsement, made a full-length, major label release sure to follow.

Rumors abounded that they duo was more than a professional collaboration but both White and Williams repeatedly denied this. A quote on their website bio states…”I don’t think we would be able to go on stage every night and sing ‘I don’t love you.’ I don’t think a healthy relationship could withstand that every single night.”

Barton Hollow (which was voted #16 on our 2011 Top 30 Album report) was released in 2011. It was quickly a No. 1 iTunes download and reached positions ranging from No. 1 to No. 10 on four separate Billboard album charts, including the Top 200 Albums. Critical acclaim abounded and White and Williams soon found themselves appearing on the likes The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NPR’s All Things Considered and A Prairie Home Companion. Barton Hollow went on to win two Grammys for Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance .

As good as Barton Hollow was considered to be, their live performances were what ultimately cemented their musical chic. Many major festival performances including Bonnaroo, The Sasquatch Festival, The Newport Folk Festival and a recent stunning performance at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival showed live audiences near perfect singing and playing and helped to create a rabid fan base. Check our ACL Festival Coverage review of their set.

The Civil Wars appeared mostly as a simple duo proving, that if the performances and the compositions are good enough, you need nothing more than two voices and a guitar. They filled the large stages these festivals proving that audiences could not get enough of their sweet harmony filled, well-crafted songs.

With future such performances now in doubt, the music world is the worse for it. One can only hope that the differences can be worked out and that their fans and the music world at large will be rewarded with more live and recorded performances from a group who are seemingly stopping short just as they were really starting to cook.

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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.