Imagine a song with steady driving drumbeat and piano, a constant crescendo as the song progresses, a sweeping chorus, breathtaking strings, and inspiring lyrics. The perfect song for driving down the highway, windows down, music up; I fell in love with it instantly. The song is “Closed Hand, Full of Friends” by Foy Vance off his latest album, Joy of Nothing (released in August 2013). Foy’s voice is superb here; a hint of an Irish accent (he hails from Bangor, Northern Ireland) on a variety of up-tempo tracks and heartfelt ballads. The album is driven mainly by skilled acoustic guitar, but every song boasts a string section and/or percussion that provide intensity and emphasis on powerful lyrics and emotion. The result is personal and raw, but ultimately uplifting.
In Vance’s delivery, I noted some similarities to Bruce Springsteen and Ray Lamontagne, but also a lovely falsetto that stands on its own. Vance uses this falsetto selectively and only in really perfect moments. Like in the title track, about the beauty of the simple moments in life: “Oh the joy of nothing/Is a sweeter something/And I will hold it in my heart”… a good reminder for us all in a hectic and material world.
A couple of songs, “At Least My Heart Was Open” and “Regarding Your Lover” deal with break ups, and deliver absolute zingers; I can’t imagine the feelings associated to being on the receiving end of either. In possibly my favourite lyric on the album from “Regarding Your Lover:” “I would rather had you been vapourized/By a lunar reflection in the sky/Than to be beguiled by one so banal/I just never dreamed it could come to that.” And as I heard throughout the album, the WAY in which Vance sings the lyrics also adds to their impact.
“You and I” is a beautiful ballad, seemingly about a relationship that has proven solid throughout life’s ups, downs, and uncertainties. Bonnie Raitt is featured on backing vocals, and her voice is soft yet stunning paired with Vance’s strong, raw tone. As someone who is a fan of good, chill-inducing chord changes, this one is packed. The bridge between 2:22 and 2:46 is especially beautiful with chord progressions on guitar and strings that serve to drive home the inspiring message of the song.
“Feel For Me” is a slow, sexy, sultry jam. I admit I skipped over “Paper Prince” at first, but it grew on me. “Janey” makes striking use of guitar and percussion on the chorus. And in continued why-have-I-never-heard-any-of-these-songs fashion, the album ends on yet another high note with “Guiding Light” where Vance duets with Ed Sheeran, a great talent in his own right. Their voices are sublime here; this track has the kind of chorus that would lend itself well in a first dance song at a wedding, or, as sung by a crowd at a show would be soul stirring.
Vance has said that music is redemptive for him that he’d hate to think of what he’d be doing if not for that outlet. I am definitely pleased that this is the path he’s taken, and will definitely be looking out for more from him. Vance is opening for Brett Dennen in North America through March, and will be supporting NeedtoBreathe on their upcoming North American Spring tour (having seen NeedtoBreathe live several times, I can tell you that they plus Vance will be a can’t miss combo). “Joy of Nothing” is available on iTunes.
Written by Valerie