Discussing
The secular blossoming of The Civil Wars' Joy Williams

John J. Thompson

Todd Hertz
April 1, 2011

Hey there. Great piece. I'm wondering if you could expand on your Judges reference. You wrote: "In fact, like Jesus in the Biblical book of Judges, the themes lie in what is not there far more than what is there." I feel like there is a good thought packed in there, but I'm not quite sure what you're getting at.

TheOnlyJJT
April 1, 2011

Sure, Todd. Judges is a devastating book. Jesus looms large in it because there is this massive hole where he should be. The account of the murdered and dismembered girl, for instance, includes several forward looking references to Jesus actually. It's the epitome of something being "conspicuous in its absence." Though not nearly as intense as that, I pick up a theme in many of this album's songs that true love is missing - and what the characters are left with is just passion. (To over simplify...)

Clay
April 1, 2011

Great post. When I first heard this song I thought for sure it was some other Joy Williams. Not many Christian artists can make the transition from the shallows of CCM pop to the deeper waters of Indie artistry. If their "musical marriage" is going to work, the music has to feel real--true artists know how to perform a song, not just sing it. I really like The Civil Wars and am ready to hear more, especially as they grow musically and lyrically beyond the limits of their name.

Todd Hertz
April 1, 2011

Ah, I get it now. I knew you had a bigger meaning there I just kept re-reading the sentence to try to see what I was missing. Thanks!

Rickd
April 1, 2011

Wow. I hope that is not an accurate description of their music. If it is, Count me out. "In song after song the two writers delve deeply into the murky mire that shipwrecks inter-personal connections and prevents individuals from finding love and peace with others, or even themselves." Unrelenting lugubrious emotional solipsism set to banjo! Days of our Lives on a 6-string Gibson. Which is not far off because now I see that a Civil Wars song was used on the last episode of the soap opera, Gray's Anatomy. My apologies, I'm an old guy. I'm just giving you a visceral response.

Bethanykj
April 4, 2011

I really liked this blog post from Charlie Peacock about the production of the album. (Peacock has worked in CCM for several decades, which explains his reference to having done the kind of production he derides here)<br><br><a href="http://recordproducer.typepad.com/record-producer/2010/01/performance-production-the-civil-wars-poison-wine.html" rel="nofollow">http://recordproducer.typepad....</a><br><br>I also love the album, though I haven't given a lot of thought to it's lyrical themes. I do not find it unrelenting or lugubrious.

Rickd
April 4, 2011

Lugubrious; Mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree....<br><br>The reviewer calls these songs “psycho-emotional civil war” and “As an exploration of the damage and devastation left after warring parties have left the field of battle.”<br><br>By unrelenting, I mean; The reviewer says, “SONG AFTER SONG” (unrelenting) the “two writers delve deeply into the murky mire that shipwrecks inter-personal connections and prevents individuals from finding love and peace with others, or even themselves.” I am not saying they are not good musicians or talented artists. Just morose.<br><br>As the reviewer says, “there are few answers, if any, to be found” in these songs. I'm just not a big fan of songs without hope. Even if it is "conspicuous by its absence". "Jesus looms large" because He is not here?<br><br>Maybe some like mucking about in the “murky mire” of people that never experience love or peace...people that are shipwrecks in song after song. To each his own. For what it’s worth I listened to a few songs on line and they lived up to the reviewers description. Lots of navel gazing and exploration of feelings. Hard to dance to.

Bethanykj
April 5, 2011

I think music is a good way to engage melancholy reality of living in sin (and potential hope found within). I prefer it to melancholy film. And I think the Bible gives us reason to consider these stories, like those in Judges.<br><br>That's fine with me if you don't enjoy it, but it's no reason to be so dismissive. Your "unrelenting and lugubrious" is someone else's "sustained melancholy."

Rickd
April 5, 2011

Fair comment. These are areas of taste. I am not trying to be dismissive I am trying to engage with the reviewer's comments, the lyrical content of the songs themselves and the degree of musicality, which I appreciate. Sustained Melancholy it is! Thanks.

Daw
August 10, 2011

I was unaware until now that Joy had used christian music as a vehicle for her talent. Like many, I find christian music’s forays into pop (or even worse hard rock) ridiculous, misguided and somewhat hypocritical. However, the fact that Joy Williams once sang sappy songs about non-existent beings and historical inaccuracies in no way diminishes her undeniable talent, her unaffected sensuality, or her potential for a career in the big leagues of music. I say that we should not hold it against someone because they were once young and naïve enough to believe in fairytales and even sing about them…we’ve all made mistakes, the important thing is that we learn from them, which perhaps she has.

Tillie Gibson
September 13, 2011

I think it's wonderful when Christians can be artists without being "Christian artists." I enjoy good worship song, but frankly, most of what is on the radio right now is just not good music. As a writer, musician, and introspective 20-something, I appreciate music (and any creative work) that doesn't ignore the darker side of human experience. Some may not find the hope they're looking for in The Civil Wars' songs, but I'm not looking for hope in their songs -- I've found my hope in Christ, and I'm not afraid to enjoy music that represents very well what many people experience in relationships. Granted, it may not be a good idea to listen to them for hours on end... But the world's not all peaches and rosebuds, and if you've ever known any artists, you know they're not afraid to say so. I happen to be one of those people, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Charlotte
October 7, 2011

Wow, that was pretentious.

Perry
November 20, 2011

I googled "how did Joy Williams go from contemporary Christian music to Civil Wars?"  This article answered the question and is extremely welll written.

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