Fair play to Foy Vance, who impressed the tastemakers on iTunes enough to make his swooping single, " Closed Hand, Full of Friends" the "free tune of the week."
Vance was born in the Northern Ireland town of Bangor before settling in Oklahoma. He was raised on southern fried sounds that he heard when he traveled with his dad in the deep south and it shapes Joy of Nothing, his excellent new disc.
"I have known your love and I have known your hate/I have watched you devastate to liberate," Vance sings with a sense of urgency that calls to mind when that "screen door slams" during Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road."
Vance is a devastatingly potent storyteller. He has toured extensively with some of the biggest names in music, including Bonnie Raitt, Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran.
Many of those artists have returned the favor. Raitt adds her sandpaper vocal to "You and I," a beautiful acoustic ballad, while Sheeran pitches in for the haunting "Guiding Light" that closes the album.
"Ed is inspiring to be around, he is connecting with his generation," Vance tells the Limerick Post about his friendship with Sheeran, who is single-handedly causing a folk revival here with some massive acoustic hits.
"He is the most unlikely pop star ever, 'cos he is so down to earth in many respects but he can make everyone feel like they are the only person at the gig. We have been writing music together. He has become a very close friend. We keep in contact all the time."
Vance also scored the Oscar-winning short-film The Shore with David Holmes, who collaborated with Vance on his 2012 Melrose EP.
A more apt name for his Joy of Nothing album might be No Joy in Love. The songs chronicle love lost, karma biting you where it hurts and the feeling of hopelessness when you get kicked to the curb.
"Paper Prince" starts out with a sluggish strut and a slinky bass line as Vance chants, "I'm on my own again as the sun still shines."
"I tried to do what I felt was right/but I know I f***ed it up sometime/but at least my heart was open/you were the one who crossed the line/but you could not go the extra mile/so I did what you were hoping/at least my blood keeps pumping/I have known your love and I have known your hate/" he sings on the brilliant "At Least My Heart Was Open," an album standout.
Like a Pixies song, Vance's music goes from a quiet acoustic strum to a lush, dramatic burst of sound on the stop of the dime and as the mood fits.
"Regarding Your Lover" is an example of the unflinching honesty that makes Vance such an urgent voice.
"I was tired of you telling me you're leaving every time it came to blows/it was hard to be jealous/I was supposed to be having the time of my life," he sings before shouting "that's the way I held you/though I never will again," and the strings wash the track into an emotional crescendo.
Fans of Sheeran, Damien Rice or David Gray will fall in love with Vance.
Producer Michael Keeney's soft touch on these tracks is the right call. He opens the microphone and lets Vance do his thing with minimal interference.
"He's just an amazing performer and I just tried to capture that," Keeney says of Vance on the promotional video on the website.
There is something that connects in your soul when you listen to the songs of the broken soul that wrote Joy of Nothing. It is fitting that the disc drops on the last week of summer as the seasons change and the bones shiver with the impending winter's cold.
Like the seasons love runs hot and cold, and Vance has a reporter's eye for detail as he chronicles every treacherous step along the way. Check him out at www.foyvance.com
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