[Cheap and Cheerful]: Foy Vance

foy-vance-1-hi-resHope is a sword with both sides as sharp as the other / And it cuts you of course and it cuts to the heart”

Welcome to a feature I have much neglected, Cheap & Cheerful, where I throw songs and albums your way which artists have provided for free download, or pay-what-you-feel. Expect more of these in future because your pockets are probably nearly as empty as mine and, if you’re anything like me, free tunes brighten any gloomy day.

On a sunny bank holiday Monday (at least it is where I am), you need music to match the occasion. Into my playlist today dropped this wee gem from Bangor-born folk singer Foy Vance, which fit the bill perfectly. A product of his musical upbringing, listening to folk songs from home and travelling the American South and Midwest with his preacher father, Vance’s blend of Transatlantic influences has earned him tour spots with Bonnie Raitt (who offers backing vocals on You and I) and fellow  Communion label acolytes Michael Kiwanuka and Marcus Foster. His songs have also been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Rom-Zom-Com Warm Bodies (interesting concept handled really well, definitely worth a watch).

Dark Horse, a B-side from Vance’s imminent second album, Joy of Nothing, is an understated and uplifting strummer which lilts and soars as you listen. Consisting only of Vance’s guitar and compelling vocals with some tasteful bass fills, Dark Horse‘s simplicity recalls the spare directness which characterised the songwriting of 60’s troubadours. Indeed, the song’s opening shows the unmistakable influence of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, seeming like it will jump into the line ‘If I ventured in the slipstream…’ at any moment while the slinky bass fills sound as if they came courtesy of Richard Davis himself. The easy-going strummer style of the track may be too simplistic for some, but there is no denying the catchy and moving honesty of the song which carries you along. Vance’s versatile voice floats with the music here, where on other tracks it can rattle and shake. The lyrics themselves are characterised by a melancholy which is tempered by pragmatic optimism: This is the way things are, we may as well make the most of it.  This in itself could be said to be the lyrical theme of Joy of Nothing as a whole, for Vance’s songs are heartbreakers, but there is hope in there to be sure. Hope, above all else.

Joy of Nothing is out today through Glassnote Records. Dark Horse is available to listen and download through NoiseTrade

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