That pretty guy face is John Paul White of Alabama, and the lady with him is Joy Williams from California (but moved to Nashville). There's no additional band on the album or on their tour - just these two. Each song is described as "an intimate conversation." Their combination came from very different backgrounds (pop for Joy, country for John). And a note - they are not married, dating, messing around, nothing. Yes, it's important to know that because otherwise you might assume the emotions are genuine, when in fact they just have incredible chemistry.
"20 Years" starts things off in a pretty expectable way, sad and simple about a time ago when something was felt. Their voices maintain a dark aura about them though, and we loose the hokey feel you may associate with folk and country. And there may even be some Asian undertones to the guitar licks.
Picking up things a little is "I've Got This Friend," and it sort of feels like a walking-down-the-dusty-road song. Almost close to pickin', but there's a quality of a pop song there as well. They're not talking about each other, or even someone they love, but instead about themselves, I think - at least, that's what I get out it.
"C'est la Mort" is singing of not being alone in death - take me when you leave, yet it's okay for me to leave. It kind of reminds me of that quote from Winnie the Pooh - "I hope to die the day before you so I never have to live a day without you."
More songs of longing and some sadness come, as we now get "To Whom It May Concern." I don't think I've ever been so saddened by something deemed folk or country. Partially it's due to these deep entrancing voices singing off words that drag out and downward more. This song's got a hope to it, sort of, in the lyrics, like you're waiting for someone to fulfill the song, but it's forever. It's wanting that person you never knew you wanted.
"My Father's Father" brings us sort of back to the hokey feeling, but again, John's voice is completely non-norm of this genre. There are also these ghostly tones of Joy used in the bridge that are light and barely noticeable, but give the entire song something different. Haunting.
The next song is another single, "Barton Hollow." Again, heard this before the album itself, and there's such an interesting sound here. They are most definitely folk, but unlike any other country I've heard before, yet there's enough country rock in there to warrant an additional categorization. Check out this simple identifier video done for the song:
There's a girl who's lost, perhaps even like a ghost, who's spending her life longing and confused in "Girl With The Red Balloon." This one is a story of sorts, or maybe more like a biography. The guitar part of this song sounds like a lot of things you'd hear on mainstream radio if you listen closely enough. It's polished. The waltz feel gives the song a unique quality that is hard to compare.
"Falling." Oi. Um. Well, this one hits too close to home and is actually incredibly painful to hear, yet so cathartic. Try screaming out to be noticed because you can't help but want it, and you'll get what I mean. Have a moment when all you want is for that person to give you a second look? And do you hate yourself for it the whole time? Yup, you, me, and Joy seem to get it in this powerful song.
I think "Forget Me Not" is the first song to actually annoy me a little. It's boring and the voices are hitting notes that are making my ears twitch a little. I understand how this all can be deemed as actually interesting, but it's not my cup of tea.
Oh the bitterness in "Bird of a Feather" is just wonderful. A bad couple sticks together regardless. The music maintains that folk/country upbeat nature that you tap along to, but the words say so much differently. They're so angry but so in love, and come on, who hasn't been there.
The first of two bonus tracks is INCREDIBLE - it's the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" like you've never ever heard it before. It's not cute and poppy - it's sad, but up an octave so we want to keep listening and take her back. It serves its purpose in so many ways. Absolutely beautiful. Here's a video so you can see them live, and hear it!
"Dance Me To The End of Love" is the final track and second bonus track. It's another familiar track in a completely different style than we're used to. They probably are the least simple with these two final tracks, but keep it pretty minimalistic overall. This is a very fitting close out to the album as well, both in title as well as downward final resolutions of notes within.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:
- "I've Got This Friend" - Spotify, YouTube
- "Poison & Wine" - Spotify, YouTube
- "Barton Hollow" - Spotify, YouTube
- "The Violet Hour" - Spotify, YouTube
- "Falling" - Spotify, YouTube
- "I Want You Back (Bonus)" - Spotify, YouTube
There's a lot here, and it will be interesting to see how this is received by the voters. It would be awesome if these were known to be televised awards so that some kind of public recognition could happen. I think many more people would find this work really interesting and different from much that's out there now. Deemed "alternative folk" makes me think that there may even be an entire new genre to experience!