12.09.13 — “Abe & Johnny” by Jus Post Bellum

Jus Post Bellum

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Abe & Johnny” by Jus Post Bellum (2013, from the album Oh July).

Jus Post Bellum is an indie-folk quartet from Brooklyn. They released one album —Devil Winter— in the spring of 2012 and their second album —Oh July— on November 12 of this year. A lot of their songs are about American history, and more specifically, the American Civil War. That’s actually the source of their name. “Jus Post Bellum” is Latin for “Justice after war”, and it refers not only to the cessation of fighting, but to arriving at a peaceful accord.

Stylistically, Jus Post Bellum is really really reminiscent of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. Thanks to the silky smooth lead vocals of Geoffrey Wilson. He and Hannah Jensen are the core of the band, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re a duo.

Like Fleet Foxes, Jus Post Bellum relies as much on incredible vocal harmonies as they do on the dark lyrics and folky sounds.

Tonight’s song, as beautiful as it is, is about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Tangentially, anyway. It’s more about the undying love between a couple, but the “Abe” in the song is Lincoln and the “Johnny” is Booth.

“Abe & Johnny” by Jus Post Bellum

It doesn’t specifically mention the assassination, but it specifically names Booth, and an “Abraham” who opened people’s minds. The thing that I take from this song, though, is this set of lyrics:

Some sweet old lady and
some sweet old man
They must die
I promise to love you
I promise to stay
’til I die

Wilson’s vocals are perfect enough on their own, but when he harmonizes with Jensen, it’s heart-achingly beautiful. Everybody knows I’m a sucker for beautiful coed vocal harmonies. What’s going on here is very special.

The theme there is in stark contrast to other songs on the album which are about a decaying romance. The album opener “Gimme That Gun”, for example, is about a guy who contemplates shooting himself in the head after his wife leaves him for another man. Later in the album, the song “For the Brokenhearted” is about another couple in which the woman has fallen out of love with the man.

First and foremost, I love the vocal harmonies in “Abe & Johnny”, but I also love that theme of the promise to stick around and to love her until he dies. It’s the same thing that makes George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” one of my favorite songs of all time. So beautiful, so sweet, and so devastatingly sad. I seriously get all choked up just thinking about that song.

There are other songs on the album about enduring love, but this is the best example, and it’s my favorite song on the album. I almost wonder, though, if all of the seemingly different relationships depicted in the songs are actually the same relationship at different stages. Along the same lines as that couple in all those Mountain Goats songs. Just a thought.

You can and should buy Oh July from the Jus Post Bellum bandcamp page. Listen to the album while relaxing with an adult beverage. But be sure to give it your undivided attention.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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