STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 177351-28771 LABEL: Atlantic FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
Now signed to Ed Sheeran's Gingerbread Man Records, Northern Irish singer/songwriter and troubadour Foy Vance released two bookending albums in 2019 with 'To Memphis' following hot on the heels of the soul-influenced 'From Muscle Shoals'. As its title might suggest, Vance popped into Elvis' hometown to record at Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Studios and this offering of country-tinged Americana seems to have absorbed something of the atmosphere and immediacy that adorned the sessions of Presley, Cash, Perkins et al back at the dawn of rock 'n' roll. Recorded over two days, things are kept nice and organic with the opening tracks "I Was Born" and "Only The Artist" showcasing a backing band that knows exactly when to ebb and flow to allow Vance's straightforward acoustic guitar and increasingly gravelly tones to take maximum effect. In fact, it's the moustached maestro's voice that characterises this intimate release as he part mumbles and part prairie calls his way through a series of cryptically poetic pieces with the likes of "The Strong Hand" and "Cradled In Arms" oozing mystery and intrigue from every pore. A quartet of girls' name songs - amongst them the unashamedly titled "Alice From Dallas" - add a lovelorn and wandering quality to proceedings whilst "The Christ And The Crook" points towards Vance's mindset on matters of faith with lines like "I ain't about to go looking for answers in the body of Christ - it's riddled with cancer/If I wanna get to the truth I'll just get out the book" before advising "there's just as much truth in the Christ as there is in the crook." The existential closing track "We're Already In Heaven" expands on the singer's thoughts on spirituality and seemingly suggests that there's nothing beyond this life except to have your molecules reassigned into the ever-expanding universe whilst perhaps hinting that he's moved on from or incorporated his Christian faith into something more holistic. As ever with Vance's work, everything is open to interpretation though and this - along with the man's obvious skills as a writer and deliverer - is all part of the appeal.
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