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The Civil Wars: A Song Of Loyalty, Before It's Tested

Joy Williams and John Paul White call their Grammy-winning band The Civil Wars, but the two have built a gentle, harmony-rich folk-pop sound in which warm chemistry more than counteracts the tension under the music's surface. Though not a couple themselves — each is married, and Williams just had a baby — they convey many hallmarks of a loving union, particularly in the way she stares at him sweetly as they sing.

As most Civil Wars fans know by now, Williams and White recently announced that they've canceled all of their current tour dates in response to "internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition." This, naturally, has fueled talk of a breakup — the assurance that "our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013" doesn't specify whether that music would be made together or separately — which is a pretty crummy development for one of the most amiably appealing (not to mention best-selling) new bands to pop up in ages.

Recorded in presumably happier times — during the Sasquatch! Music Festival in George, Wash., this past summer — this Field Recording captures the pair amid backstage grapevines as they sing beautifully between gusts of wind. In a bit of sad irony, the song they play ("Kingdom Come") is a reassuring ode to loyalty in hard times: "Don't you fret, my dear / It'll all be over soon," they sing in unison. "I'll be waiting here / For you."

Here's hoping.

Credits

Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Saidah Blount; Videographers: Jim Beckmann, Mito Habe-Evans, Scott Holpainen; Audio Engineers: Matt Ogaz, Kevin Wait; Production Assistant: Nick Michael; Special Thanks to Sasquatch! Music Festival, Live Nation; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Keith Jenkins.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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