If Others Are Going To Compare...s
I keep intending to review The Civil Wars and their album Barton Hollow, and will another time, but I reference them now because The Parlor Soldiers – Virginian singer-songwriters Alex Culbreth and Karen Jonas, with Dan Dutton on upright bass – are easily compared with this duo, as many reviewers of TPS have whilst at the same time expressing a preference for the Virginia natives.
That preference is obviously fine but I have been a little surprised by the mildly caustic nature of its expression. When I first heard Barton Hollow I wasn’t blown away, feeling it was a little over-produced. It was seeing The Civil Wars – singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White – live and simply acoustic on Later...with Jools that got me hooked. I also came across a bootleg of another full live performance which consolidated that liking for their tight dual harmonies and catchy songs – also, a great cover of Jackson’s Billie Jean impressed [I think I’m now reviewing The Civil Wars.....].
The Parlor Soldiers, with recent release When The Dust Settles, are a little more varied and rougher at times, and perhaps some commentators prefer their less polished and less twee, as I could understand it appearing, performances when compared with TCW. TPS tell some darker stories too which might seem to give them more street cred? Whatever, I like both, and TPS add another notch to the genre-stick of the increasing number of male/female Americana combos. The song Crazy from this album playfully references Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard as it indulges in a more old-fashioned C&W verbal-duelling duet. They don't always harmonise, as with Karen singing solo on Mess, and the rock'n'roll dirge of Long Gone has them singing mostly separately, and with a rawness filling the song, so overall there is slightly more variation than with TCW, but it is in its own right a fine album.