Comprised of Johnny Depp’s Doppelganger John Paul White and the angel-voiced Joy Williams, The Civil Wars have become fairly famous over the past few months, partially for their interpretive acoustic covers. Having already conquered the likes of Michael Jackson, Elliot Smith and Smashing Pumpkins, the duo have attached their talents with the catalog of an even more unlikely group, British trip-hoppers Portishead, for the B-Side of their recent 7-inch.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary The Chieftains will mark the occasion with the release of Voice of Ages on February 21. The album features the torch-bearers of traditional Irish music collaborating with stars from the worlds of indie-rock (Bon Iver, The Decemberists, The Low Anthem), country and Americana (The Civil Wars, Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers), Irish and Scottish folk (Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan, Paolo Nutini) and more.
Christmas covers come pretty fast this time of year (duh), so we periodically step back to collect a bunch in a single post. Our last set was a few weeks ago and since then we’ve posted new Christmas songs by My Morning Jacket, Josh T. Pearson, Dawes/Peter Wolf Crier/Mannequin Man, and Red Wanting Blue/Tristen. Even with all that, though, there have been even more we haven’t gotten to. So here’s a bunch, crammed together for a holiday mixtape or just some Christmas cheer.
The Civil Wars are a band on the rise. In 2008, singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White met during a Nashville, Tennessee songwriting session and the result was the birth of the indie folk, alt-country band. In 2009 friend and TV producer Allan Heinberg placed their early single “Poison & Wine” on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which generated lots of Internet searches. Two days later, the four song EP Poison & Wine was released and then it was selected by iTunes as the “Best of 2010” singer/songwriter album.
The late Elliott Smith’s catalog is full of moody, mellow indie-folk gems that have proven ripe for covering, with other notable acoustic-leaning musicians like Ben Folds, Seth Avett and many more offering up their own takes on his songs. Given the popularity of Smith covers and their own penchant for re-interpreting established works, it’s little surprise that up-and-coming folk duo The Civil Wars decided to record a cover of one of his best songs, “Between the Bars” from his 1997 album Either/Or (Full Album set here).
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
The Civil Wars have made a reputation for themselves as great live performers. The duo, Joy Williams and John Paul White, inaugurated the band by recording their second show ever. They released it as a free album, Live at Eddie’s Attic, which has become a grassroots success with over 100,000 downloads. So it’s no surprise that they’ve done a series of standout live covers since they formed in 2008. Williams says, “We happen to have a great affection for covers…we sort of noodle around trying to find which song sings back to us in the midst of trying to cover a song.”