Oh my goodness this is so good! At last Foy Vance has fulfilled all that potential. This is one of the great Northern Ireland records and might well lead to Vance becoming one of the great Northern Ireland artists across the world.
I have blogged before that for me Foy Vance is one of my embarrassments. I was involved in a Belfast music project back in the 90s - Alive In Belfast. I was managing Iain Archer at the time (very amateurishly) that put me in a room with the best of the city’s music at that time - Henry McCullough (he played Woodstock!), Brian Houston, Tiberius Minnows, New Brontés, Disraeli Gears (the last two had Jonny Quinn now of Snow Patrol behind the drums) etc etc… The Soul Truth had Foy Vance as singer. He sounded good but among Archer, Houston and the rest I paid no attention…
…until I heard Indiscriminate Act of Kindness and Gabriel and The Vagabond. Wow, what soul filled songs. Then I saw him with the Ulster Orchestra, that voice just knocked me out and I could not come to terms with how I, so proud of my discovery of new talent, missed this guy!
Let me be honest, however, The Wild Swan is the first record where I think Foy has nailed his sound and fulfilled his promise. His debut record Hope even with such great songs as the aforementioned Indiscriminate Act of Kindness and Gabriel and The Vagabondwas a little too produced. The long awaited Joy Of Nothing, with more incredible songs like You & I (with Bonnie Raitt) and Guiding Light (with Ed Sheeran), was good and got closer but was perhaps a little too earnest for me.
The Wild Swan finally gets it perfectly. This is Foy at his most effortlessly glorious. From beginning to end you feel that this is a natural waterfall of organic cascading words and melodies. It’s infectious, it is soulful and it will linger deep long after the surface immediacy has become familiar.
I believe this to be as close to the musical soul of Vance that we have ever gotten. The sound is something like might have happened had Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Band had been available when Van Morrison was going all rustic up around Woodstock in Ulster County circa Moondance and Tupelo Honey.
Of course, Foy Vance shares a home with Van in the original Ulster. Vance’s hometown is the fertile little rock town of Bangor, Co. Down that Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody has sung about, as has Iain Archer Grammy nominated co-writer of Hold Back The River with James Bay. Vance pays homage to it on Bangor Town and might even have sussed the entire wee country of Northern Ireland with: -
“Our minds are tethered
But our hearts are wild”
Not that Van can add Vance to the list of those he calls copycats. Vance takes that organic acoustic sound of late 60s early 70s Morrison and blends Gospel and blues riffs and more The almost rockabilly rock n roll opener Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution he name checks Dr John, Little Richard, James Brown, Willie Nelsonand Aretha Franklin. On the piano led Ziggy Looked Me In The Eyehe channels Bowie and Bolan: -
'We are children of the revolution,
Never let the Spirit die’
The Wild Swan is a stunner, listen after listen. Songs about falling in love, a friend’s daughter, a singer encouraging himself to find his place, philosophers and revolution. It is light in spirit, big in heart and intriguing of mind. It is indeed “upbeat, feels good.” This is the one, Foy - you belong!