Album review: Foy Vance - The Wild Swan
PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 June 2016
Polished, consistent and compelling Americana from feted new kid on the block.
Through some dastardly combination of sheer talent, luck, willpower and fate, Vance has got his career off to a flying start.
Catching the ear and heart of Ed Sheeran led to the star signing him up (this is the second album on Sheeran’s own label), starting a journey that’s seen him record in Nashville’s legendary Blackbird Studios with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King at the helm, and Elton John as exec producer.
Not to mention chalking up hundreds of thousands of YouTube views and being playlisted on major radio stations before The Wild Swan is even released.
And why all the fuss? Vance has a tunefully gruff voice that adds a leaden heft to his broad, poetic lyrics – the type that could reflect any listener’s circumstance if they squint a bit.
Several tracks turn well-worn workouts into copper-bottomed, heart-rending pop numbers in the American Songbook tradition, drawing on rootsy Americana, folk, country and gospel.
It’s that gritty, grainy voice of his that saves the day - the salt offsetting the schmaltz threatening to curdle Ziggy Looked Me In The Eye, with its surging piano and choir.
He can summon an authority beyond his years, too, bringing a certain Springsteen-esque spiritual weight to the hymnal Burden – and the military-style drums and bagpipe outro of Fire It Up (The Silver Spear) recall The Boss’s Seeger Sessions Band work.
On Upbeat Feelgood, Vance feeds horns, accordion and barroom piano into Ray LaMontagne’s looser-limbed work with The Pariah Dogs to superb effect, the shining production highlighting top-drawer musicianship.
And we’re offered a window into his mind in Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution, his gruff voice name-dropping philosophers, sociologists and revolutionaries to the lively railroad twang of guitar, double bass and wailing brass in the final act.
There are a couple of missteps - particularly the drifting, synth-dusted She Burns – but this is a surprisingly consistent and engaging first chapter that will appeal to many.
Rating: 4/5 stars