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The Civil Wars’ ‘The One That Got Away’ Video Is As Painful As It Is Beautiful

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John Paul White and Joy Williams of the Civil Wars

John Paul White and Joy Williams of the Civil Wars (Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Sensibility Music)

Kurt Wolff
Kurt Wolff
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The acclaim for country-folk duo the Civil Wars is probably as high today as it’s ever been. They’ve won GRAMMYs, they’ve recorded with T-Bone Burnett and Taylor Swift, and their debut album (Barton Hollow) has been certified Gold by the R.I.A.A.

The trouble is, the two bandmates (Joy Williams and John Paul White) appear not to be in a place where they can truly enjoy their well-earned success. That’s because, even though they have a second album on the way (The Civil Wars, hitting stores August 6), Williams and White have–as far as we can tell–officially disbanded. Or they have as a touring entity, at least, based on a statement that was widely circulated late last year.

What’s unusual in this particular disbanding, though, is that they have gone ahead with their plans to release a second album this year. Earlier this month they debuted the album’s first single, “The One That Got Away”; and today they unveiled a video for the song.

The video isn’t high concept. More of a behind-the-scenes-type presentation, it consists mostly of a series of shots showing Williams and White recording the song in the studio.

But it’s a powerful watch nonetheless, as it seems to show that whatever rift exists between these two talented musicians is heartbreakingly real. For starters, as Williams and White harmonize (beautifully, by the way) on the song’s often-painful lyrics (“Oh, I wish I’d never ever seen your face/I wish you were the one that got away”), they never look each other in the eye. Glances are made back and forth, but there’s a connection that’s missing.

Whether this is manufactured to emphasize the melancholy mood of the song, or is simply the way things are between them these days, we may never quite know. But either way, “The One That Got Away” is a haunting song you won’t soon forget.

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