Foy Vance – “Joy of Nothing”

“‘Joy of Nothing’ is easily one of the best albums so far this year in its genre or any other for that matter.” -CB

Cameron Barham

out of 10

Foy Vance
Joy of Nothing
August 26, 2013
Glassnote Records

“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
― W.B. Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”

On Joy of Nothing, Foy Vance spreads before the listener quite a collection of his dreams that refuse to be easily tread underfoot. It comes 6 years after his first release, Hope, and reflects the maturation and seasoning that comes from the wearing passage of days and life experiences. Recorded at Attica Audio and produced by Michael Kenney in the rural town of Donegal in Ireland, the ethos of the remote coast and rolling hills permeates one of the best folk-rock records I have heard in a number of years. Vance’s Irish voice is textured and strong in the same wonderful way as James Vincent McMorrow, Jeffrey Foçault, and Van Morrison and is paired perfectly with the expertly executed musical accompaniment and production.

Joy of Nothing opens confidently with the full and driving “Closed Hand, Full of Friends” on which Vance proclaims defiantly: “Well London was alright, but I was dead in the water, couldn’t see in its light, I couldn’t kneel at its altar, all I wanted was to tear it right down to the ground, but I’m feeling alright now, I’m feeling alright!” The title track is an exquisite ballad featuring Vance ranging from falsetto to full-throated declaration over equally beautiful and diverse musical accompaniment: “Oh the joy of nothing, is a sweeter something; I will hold it in my heart, Yes, I will hold it in my heart.” This gives way to the raucous confessional “At Least My Heart Was Open” which contains one of the albums most powerfully poetic lines: “I have known your love, I have known your hate, I have watched you devastate to liberate, Oh but every moment’s golden…” Bonnie Raitt makes an appearance on the shuffling and gentle “You and I” evidencing the respect that Vance has among fellow artists (the other great stamp of approval being if Emmylou Harris sings on a record).

Joy of Nothing continues with the soulful “Feel for Me” and “Janey” reminiscent of Ray Lamontagne before settling into a more relaxed groove on the quieter “Paper Prince”, “It Was a Good”, and “Regarding Your Lover” with the various textures of Vance’s amazing voice elegantly displayed. The album closes appropriately with “Guiding Light” featuring Ed Sheeran, a Gospel-saturated road weary hymn that gives a nod to Vance’s being influenced by growing up in churches in the American Midwest and South as his father was a minister. Vance with angelic accompaniment yearns, “When I need to get home, you’re my guiding light…” It appears that Vance has found a home within his craft.

Joy of Nothing is easily one of the best albums so far this year in its genre or any other for that matter. It belies an advanced maturity and beauty born of Vance’s gift for perseverance and poetic observation. Check out this beautiful video for “Joy of Nothing”:

-Cameron Barham, August 26, 2013
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