Album: The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars (Columbia)

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The Independent Culture

The story so far: man meets woman and the pair soon discover that their singing voices have more chemistry than a science lab.

The result? Grammy-winning glory for their debut album. A tour is hastily arranged. Then, the pair – married, but not to each other – announce they have split up. The tour is cancelled.

Suddenly, via their website, a new album is announced; meanwhile, in an interview, Joy Williams says that she and John Paul White have recorded together but have not reconciled, and that there are clues in the new material as to why they are no longer talking.

Which is all as dramatic as an episode of Nashville, but all fans want to know is what effect all this has had on the new material. Well, where once Williams and White's voices entwined so naturally and joyously, now they act like each others backing singers. At times, listening to The Civil Wars is like wading through a swamp of still-raw emotion. It is an album that is more haunted than haunting.

On the plus side, Williams voice will always be one of the loveliest things ever, and White is still needed to stop it sliding into schmaltz. But some of the magic has been lost. If they find a way to put real-life events behind them, there will be better albums than this in the years to come.