The Civil Wars, Milo Greene and a Knoxville Jewel

The Civil Wars, Bijou, Knoxville, December 2011

Special thanks goes out from Urban Guy to Buddy Ray who has now taken me to see the Civil Wars twice. The first time was at the Disk Exchange which I blogged about at the time. Then they played the Pilot Light later that evening, this time they sold out the Bijou.

Milo Greene opening for the Civil Wars, Bijou, Knoxville, December 2011

The opening act was Milo Greene, a five piece band which includes four guys and one young lady. They were an absolute delight and a great opener. The music was good, somewhere in the Americana family, but the vocals specifically were fantastic. I am so delighted to be running into more artists emphasizing harmony and doing it in new and creative ways.

The only precedent I could conjure while they played was Poco in their early days. Milo Greene’s music is not country music like early Poco, but the harmonic structure sometimes inhabited the same space. Milo has no steel guitar like Poco had in spades with the immortal Rusty Young, and Poco didn’t have a female vocalist, but they did have Timothy Schmidt and that is a near vocal equivalent.

The Civil Wars, Bijou, Knoxville, December 2011

The Civil Wars consist of Joy Williams and John Paul White and nothing more. They don’t really need a band. Their intricate, intimate vocals take center stage and John Paul’s sometimes delicate and sometimes aggressive guitar playing, occasionally augmented by Joy’s keyboard fills the hall completely. Both have charisma to burn making the presence of a lone duo facing the audience more than adequate.

The songs feature complex, sometimes quirky harmonies and vocal interplay. Sometimes the call and response vocals combined with Joy’s idiosyncratic dancing as she moves from her microphone to sing slightly off-mic, often coming within inches of John Paul without ever quite touching, become incredibly erotic. It doesn’t hurt a bit that she is a very beautiful woman and he could play Johnny Depp in a movie.

The Civil Wars, Bijou, Knoxville, December 2011

The Civil Wars, Bijou, Knoxville, December 2011

They played most of the songs off their debut CD “Barton Hollow,” including their signature “Poison and Wine.” That song took off after it was used, in its entirety on Grey’s Anatomy. Later Taylor Swift noted it as one of her favorite vocal performances which both gave them a boost and underscored that she at least knows what good vocals sound like.

They ended the show with a couple of covers. Their version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is a complete make-over in the image of their own music. I never cared for the song, but I really enjoyed their take. The final song was Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” which was simply an inspired choice for the duo.

Here are a couple of videos for any of you who would like to check them out. They get the Urban Thumbs Up.

Enhanced by Zemanta