Jack White has had nothing to do with the unstoppable rise – Grammy awards and all – of the Civil Wars, but his methodology is written all over this attractive debut, released in the US a year ago. Joy Williams and John Paul White appear in virtually all photos wearing what amounts to a uniform (she in black dress, he in black suit and tie), and spruce up the wellsprings of their music (old-time American country and folk) with modern trappings, giving it a feel at once ageless and modern. It's a deliciously understated album, acoustic and largely percussionless. The title track is the most assertive thing here, and also the one that dips deepest into the well of American gothic: "Won't do me no good washing in the river/ Can't no preacher man save my soul," sing the pair. More treasurable, though, are the quieter moments, such as The Violet Hour or Poison & Wine, where their voices entwine and separate, and where their true roots – in high-class AOR – are most evident.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian