The Civil Wars, ‘Barton Hollow’ – Song Spotlight
The Civil Wars put it all on the table with 'Barton Hollow,' an emotional and spiritual new song that invokes feelings of a distant time period. Duo John Paul White and Joy Williams tell Taste of Country how the song came to be -- and candidly invite self-proclaimed fan Taylor Swift to join them on tour, should she so wish.
"When we dove into this one, it was a process like every other co-write between us. The main riff fell out in the studio, though. I guess something felt like it needed to be said toward the end of the record, because this song fell out with a passion," White says, adding, "We knew that the initial riff was sending us to a backwater place that begged for redemption."
The song itself has a raw, untouched feel, and the heartfelt lyrics battle true church hymns. The chorus describes an unseen place called Barton Hollow, which is no safe haven for the Civil Wars:
"Ain't going back to Barton Hollow / Devil gonna follow me e'er I go / Won't do me no good washing in the river / Can't no preacher man save my soul."
The location of the Hollow is more or less unspecified, but White admits it's a real place from his home state. "We knew that we needed a picturesque name for this place, and I quickly submitted a spot in my hometown of Loretto, Tennessee," he tells Taste of Country. "The story line is purposefully kept vague, as is the video. We love for people to envision themselves in our songs and let their imaginations fill in the blanks."
'Barton Hollow' appears on the Civil Wars' debut full-length record with the same name, which shot to No. 1 on iTunes when it premiered in February. Williams reveals that the song is one of her own personal favorites from the album. "As with the entire record, we were in our producer Charlie Peacock's old church-turned studio when we cut 'Barton Hollow.' We started with the bare bones of our raw, performance -- JP and me singing as if we would live," she explains. "Then, we added elements of bass, percussion, etc. until we felt like it was in a place we loved. Chasing the muse on that song in particular in studio was one of my favorites of the recording process."
Williams, the female voice of the Civil Wars, adds that 'Barton Hollow' gave the duo a little extra breathing room compared to other songs on the record. "While it has our classic elements of root-based guitar and vocal harmonies, this song lets us sing out a bit more," she says. "We are able to tap into an earthiness, a strength and a kind of grittiness that JP and I love."
The Civil Wars hold their own as a traveling duo, but should Swift -- who has been heard singing their praises -- want to tag along, she'd be welcome. "I've got nothing but love for that lady!" Williams says. Half-jokingly, White adds, "We believe we may have an opening slot on our next tour for her if she's interested."
Listen to The Civil Wars, 'Barton Hollow'