Foy Vance was born in the North Ireland town of Bangor, but his passion for traditional music was born in the southern states of America. As a child, Foy relocated with his father, a preacher, to the American Midwest settling in Oklahoma. With his father, Foy travelled the American South, widening his horizons and absorbing the rich musical traditions he was exposed to. Returning to Ireland some years later, Foy began writing his own music, deeply shaped by the sounds of his youth. Since those days, he has spent a considerable amount of time on the road, touring with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Michael Kiwanuka, Marcus Foster, Snow Patrol, and Ed Sheeran. Foy also scored Oscar-winning short-film The Shore with David Holmes, who collaborated with Vance on his 2012 Melrose EP. Foy’s newest album, Joy Of Nothing, will be released this year.
With his latest album, “Joy Of Nothing,” – the first effort for his new label Glassnote (home of Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and more) – Foy Vance has crafted a masterwork of the sweet hurt of love and what it does to the men and women involved with all of the fallout. Vance works with those familiar refrains of finding and holding onto a guiding light, of falling back on one’s resiliency (with the backing vocal help of Bonnie Raitt on the excellent cut, “You and I”), of shutting off from the world and living behind guarded emotional walls, of knowing the contents of one’s soul better than anyone else ever could and of ripping everything up, throwing the scraps into the air and just going for whatever gusto might still be left to have in this life of such short terms.
Foy has been writing about these spectacular miseries for years. Since his debut, “Hope,” in 2007, Vance has made the flutter and flail of happiness his chief export. That record ended with his now nine-year-old daughter Ella singing a hidden track version of “You Are My Sunshine,” a song that famously includes mention of the gray skies, if only to punctuate the sunshine and its effects. He uses this same method to describe both the birth and death of love, many times over. Vance is moved by the fractions of love and sentiment, giving himself over to the quiet deluge. His is a voice that rattles you and forces you to let it in so that you may all enjoy a dark room, a modest fire and something to toast with.
“Joy of Nothing” is a record that makes love feel like the most alive and powerful force in the world. It presents a collection of 10 stories that show — with rousing, tear-the-sky-out-of-the-ceiling and all of the bodies out of the ground passion and equally impassioned tenderness – how everyone chooses their own verses. They often find their ways to tragic ends, but Vance reminds us constantly that we reap what we sow and sometimes we’re reaping very little. He presents the sadness that we find in our coffers as something valuable, as something that shouldn’t be dismissed as failure. He presents the sadness that he’s collected as rich with importance – with as much significance to his happiness as anything else.
The songs on “Joy Of Nothing” are all heartbreakers. They are uplifting in their many forms of destruction. Vance presents to us broken love and trampled upon happiness in a way that makes us want more of it, as if it is exactly what we should be looking for. He gives us people who aren’t fine, but will be all right in the end. You can sense that they will find happiness when it’s meant for them. They will burden their hearts and they will rid them of the black smoke that comes from fried wires and belts, when the entire spirit feels like it’s breaking down. These are anthems that remind us that the spirit always rebounds. Vance just hugs tight the loved ones that haven’t left and he twists the corners of his mustache a little tighter, reveling in the light pinks and soft oranges of his many twilights, braced for another verse.