not so Civil Wars

Two unrelated items last weekend sent me into a funk: 1. A story in Rolling Stone about the discord in the amazing singing duo The Civil Wars which in turn 2. Caused me to search around the internet looking for information about an ex-friend/bandmate. (I knew I shouldn’t go there, but couldn’t help myself.)

I wasn’t aware of The Civil Wars until I saw them on a PBS music show. They are wonderfully charismatic performers and it was magical hearing these two people - a man and a woman - sing together. Now, not to make this all about me, but as I watched them perform I couldn’t help but wonder why they were so much more compelling than the duo that I sang in (or the trio, or the quartet) that also featured very tight harmony singing. Their presentation was completely mesmerizing, even though it was just the two of them harmonizing while he accompanied on acoustic guitar. The phrasing, intonation and arrangements were almost eerie and totally riveting. It was just some kind of singular brilliance.

So it was really dispiriting to learn in the Rolling Stone story that these two people who can create such enchantment when performing are currently not speaking to one another. Even though they have a new album set to come out they can’t find a way to communicate. Sounds like a lot of little things, along with possibly a couple of big things, have conspired to create a huge void between them, even with the success they have shared. And man, I found that really depressing.

And so I went looking to find out what, if anything, my old bandmate was up to now, years after we had our own falling out. Sadly, what I found looked to me to be remarkably, unimaginatively petty: using a clear and unoriginal variation on one of our old business names; no reference to the bands we played in, or all of the music we made together; no reference to our relationship or the decades we spent as friends, colleagues and musical partners. I was kind of dumbfounded by the obvious lack of creativity and by the striking absence of empathy and sensitivity. If you want to be angry with someone you have that right; but making believe they never existed is just dishonest.

So I’m not holding out much hope that The Civil Wars will be able to get past their resentments. Bands are complex creatures full of creativity, anxiety, responsibilities (or lack thereof), joyous moments and major disappointments, varying ambitions, intense passions and insensitive comments. Not surprising then that sometimes when they breakdown no one is able to get them running again, even if there are good intentions on one side or the other – which in many cases there are not. I wish them well though, and hope that they can see their way clear to singing together again, because in the end that radiant noise they make should be able to overcome any and all obstacles.