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Country duo The Civil Wars officially breaks up

After over a year on hiatus, The Civil Wars have officially split up.

Joy Williams and John Paul White, the singer-songwriters who comprise The Civil Wars, first canceled tour dates in 2012 citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” At the time, the duo was recording its next album, which went on to top the country music charts when it was released in August 2013. Despite the album’s release, the two still didn’t tour, and White gave no promotional interviews about the record at the time.


The 10 Best Country Albums of 2013


It’s tough to say what constitutes a country album these days. 2013 was a year that saw arena-filling acts feud over pop’s influence in the genre, Nashville stars record with Norwegian pop Svengalis, and a country-rap collaboration become the longest-running No. 1 country hit of all time. Ten gallon hats and Wrangler jeans now feel out of place in a sea of trucker caps and wallet chains.

Plus, the rise of Americana, a somewhat amorphous genre that’s not considered fully folk, fully rock, or fully pop — but one that shares so many roots (and so much instrumentation) with county music — has further blurred the lines. Much of what we call “Americana” or “singer-songwriter” today falls more into the classic “country” category in storytelling and song structure than the pop-infused output of Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, or certainly Taylor Swift.

In short, the genre is something of a mess right now. It’s telling that the country format is both more popular and more criticized than it has been in decades. I spent quite a bit of time this year writing about country’s problems (the aforementioned feuds, the lazy lyrics, the lack of women on the radio) but even so, I’m happy to report that there was great music to be found. A lot of it. Music that has me hopeful for 2014. Some mainstream albums broke the mold, and more than a few shining stars from Nashville’s fringes made a major impression.

So, taking all of that into account — and taking into account that we all might have different definitions of what constitutes a country album — here are my picks for the genre’s ten best discs this year. (Spoiler alert: Luke Bryan, Tyler Farr, Justin Moore, Jake Owen, and Thomas Rhett definitely didn’t make the cut.) READ FULL STORY

'Scandal' star Bellamy Young's iPod: The Civil Wars, XTC, Bonnie Raitt and more

On the hit ABC drama Scandal, Bellamy Young plays cutthroat First Lady Mellie Grant, and though that show is full of classic R&B and funk tunes, Grant would probably prefer listening to the icy grooves of Kraftwerk or Berlin-era David Bowie.

But Young’s taste runs the gamut — from fellow North Carolinans the Avett Brothers (she’s originally from Asheville) to the New Wave worldbeat of Peter Gabriel. Here’s a smattering of what can be found on her iPod. READ FULL STORY

Joy Williams tries to explain the Civil Wars break-up: 'It's been a hard, painful season of my life'

They officially have the number-one record in the country this week — and one of the most-acclaimed albums of the year so far — but the Civil Wars’ Joy Williams and John Paul White won’t be touring to support it. In fact, the estranged duo are very famously not talking to one another at all. Williams did talk to EW, however, about making the album, separating truth from artistic license, and generally setting the record straight:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is it weird approaching every interview for your new record knowing you’ll have to address the hiatus?
Yeah, some days it’s really difficult just because I believe so much in the caliber of the music that we made that it’s hard for me that we can’t just focus on the music. That being said, I understand why people are curious about it. It’s something that I’m curious about, too, frankly. READ FULL STORY

The Civil Wars unveil sad, smoky single 'The One That Got Away'


And no, it’s not a cover of the Katy Perry song.

The Civil Wars, who, despite their unaddressed hiatus, recently announced that their self-titled second album is due August 6, released the first song from that upcoming set this morning: a crackling, morose blues-rock ballad called “The One That Got Away” that swells with moments of fury.

“I never meant to get us in this deep,” Joy Williams sighs in the opening verse. “I never meant for this to mean a thing.” The sparse arrangement, which features little more than a moody electric guitar, bass, banjo, and kick drum, builds to a bitter chorus.

“I wish I’d never ever seen your face,” Williams sings with (at?) John Paul White. “I wish you were the one that got away.” Yes, both members are married to other people, but still, it feels like we’re sitting in on their therapy session, right?

The Civil Wars’ labels, Sensibility Music/Columbia Records, aren’t trying to hide the tension currently plaguing — or, judging by this song, fueling — the band. “The [new] album was recorded amidst a grueling touring schedule, exhausting workload and a growing disconnect from their families,” a press release read this morning.

Fittingly, the video for “The One That Got Away” features nothing more than a billowing cloud of black smoke. Check it out below: READ FULL STORY

The Civil Wars announce new album, possibly still aren't getting along

One year ago, folk duo the Civil Wars (a.k.a. John Paul White and Joy Williams) seemed like they had everything going for them.

Their debut album, Barton Hollow, had earned Gold certification and won a pair of Grammys; their collaboration with Taylor Swift, “Safe and Sound,” became the breakout track of The Hunger Games; their music was regularly getting played on ABC’s Nashville; and they were performing to sold-out crowds across the country.

But all their momentum came to a screeching halt last November, when they canceled upcoming tour dates due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.” (Despite the divorce language used in the statement, Williams and White are both married to other people.) The singers didn’t explain their hiatus any further, though they did end their sad statement on an encouraging note: “Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013.”

Well, that hope will become a reality this summer. The Civil Wars announced today that they will release a self-titled sophomore album in late summer 2013, but they didn’t dispel any of the chatter about the turmoil within the group. Each member posted vague personal statements on their official site this afternoon: READ FULL STORY

Let the Buzz Begin! Check out band-on-the-rise the Lone Bellow -- VIDEO

Are you a fan of suspenders-snapping acts like Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, and the Civil Wars? Then do we have an indie-folk trio for you!

In the first of our new monthly Let the Buzz Begin! video series, Brooklyn band-on-the-rise the Lone Bellow swings by the EW offices to chat and perform a couple songs from their self-titled new album, which is currently climbing the charts on iTunes and will be widely available on Jan. 22, the same day the group makes its late-night debut on Conan.

Check out EW’s conversation with the Lone Bellow after the jump (featuring footage of them performing “You Never Need Nobody”), and as a bonus, enjoy their full live rendition of “Two Sides of Lonely.” READ FULL STORY

The Civil Wars cancel tour, cite 'irreconcilable differences'

Grammy-winning duo The Civil Wars have canceled their upcoming tour dates, citing irreconcilable differences.

The folk-pop duo Joy Williams and John Paul White released a statement Tuesday announcing that because of “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition” they were unable to “continue as a touring entity at this time.” READ FULL STORY

Hear the Civil Wars play 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day' for 'Holidays Rule' compilation - EXCLUSIVE

It may not even be Halloween yet, but Christmas is already in the air.

Case in point: next week sees the release of Holidays Rule, a new compilation of eclectic seasonal songs from contributors ranging from Paul McCartney and fun., to Rufus Wainwright, the Shins, the Head and the Heart, and Calexico.

That lineup also includes Americana breakouts the Civil Wars, who put their own lo-fi spin on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Check out the exclusive premiere below (and check out the rest of Holidays Rule’s lineup here):


How Mumford & Sons and Taylor Swift are causing a seismic shift in the music industry

The biggest debut of 2012 doesn’t belong to a glossy pop act like One Direction or Justin Bieber.

Sure, those boys have hordes of teenage girls ready to download their music at the drop of a tweet, but they’ve got nothing on the scruffy gents of Mumford & Sons, whose new disc, Babel sold 600,000 copies in its first seven days. (The next-best opening? Bieber’s Believe, with 374,000 in week 1.)

Babel‘s success (it has now led the chart for three weeks and sold 865,000 copies total) is indicative of a larger shift within the music industry. As pop music morphs into a glow-stick dance party, country acts have adopted the traditional pop sound. That leaves Mumford and the burgeoning Americana and folk genres (think acoustic guitars, banjos, and innumerable fitted tweed vests) to fill the country void. Did you get all that? Allow us to break it down. READ FULL STORY

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