Fans were crushed, not surprisngly, when the Civil Wars announced their breakup in 2014 — though they had stopped touring in 2012 — after releasing two studio albums, Barton Hollow in 2011 and an eponymous follow-up in 2013. The Grammy-winning folk duo offered a beautiful balance of male and female vocal trade-offs that elicited emotion within strongly written songs of love and heartbreak. While those same fans have been eagerly awaiting new music from either one of the duo, the first release from Joy Williams will take a bit of an adjustment.
While the Civil Wars were known for sparse arrangements using only an acoustic guitar, Venus showcases Williams' vocals against a backdrop of beats and atmospheric and orchestral flurries for a majority of the album that veer toward the territory of Peter Gabriel (think Passion). It's far closer to Tori Amos than the Civil Wars. Though there are a few tracks where she changes it up, singing against simple piano on "One Day I Will" and "What a Good Woman Does."
There's no doubt that people will dive into the lyrics looking for clues and reasons that the Civil Wars disbanded with it's mentions of turmoil and times gone by, but I'm all for avoiding any drama. On face value, it's a solid listen from start to finish though it took a minute to get past the initial "OK, she's steering clear of the Civil Wars' sound" differences. This should come as no surprise for those who know Williams had a lengthy solo career of her own before teaming up as the Civil Wars. (Anyone else catch her on the 10 out of Tenn tour stop at the Visulite Theatre in 2009?) Fans of the band won't be disappointed — she's always been a stellar singer.