The conflict at the core of the Civil Wars' debut, Barton Hollow, is an obsessive yearning for what's just out of reach, usually revolving around love that's doomed, slipping away, unattainable, or fundamentally debilitating. The songs of the Wars duo—Californian Joy Williams and Alabaman John Paul White—are permeated with haunting tension. Their slow, spacious ballads are awash in quiet desperation. Even the realized relationships are fraught with ambiguity such as in "Poison & Wine": "I don't love you but I always will." Williams and White traipse through this emotional minefield enveloped in skittish close harmonies and a mostly acoustic, country-folk sound with pop leanings. Catharsis comes only from the title track, a raw, howling blues arising from an apparent violent release of that mounting tension. Opening will be Milo Greene, a California band whose complex harmonies suggest '60s folk-pop with an indie tilt.
Wed., Nov. 9, 8 p.m., 2011