This dark, prickly tune is The Civil Wars' take on an Americana murder ballad. Joy Williams of the duo said: "It was fun writing because we just imagined some dust-bowl scenario, a broke-down town, and a man awaiting being hung for something he did in the name of trying to provide for his family. The woman who loves him is watching him standing there on the gallows."
Williams recalled when she first came up with the song's melody: "I was doing my makeup in the tiled bathroom upstairs, with my newborn Miles in a yellow rocking bassinet next to me," she said. "I started singing, and turned on the voice memo app on my iPhone so I wouldn't forget it. As I sang, Miles started cooing along with me. Not on pitch, mind you, but I'd move a note, and he'd move a note. I'm never deleting that voice memo. It's become one of my favorites."
"Devil's Backbone" is a track on the second - and final - Civil Wars album, which was made under adverse conditions. Soon after they started working on it, the duo went on tour but had a falling out and cancelled the remaining dates, posting the cause as "internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition." They finished the album but never reconciled. Williams did interviews to promote it, but White refused.