Upon first listen, Joy of Nothing -- Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance's second solo outing and first for Glassnote -- invokes names like Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, and Harry Chapin, and while the big, soulful AOR rock that's closely associated with those names indeed applies, there's an impassioned rawness at play here that suggests a steady diet of musical outliers like Jackie Leven, Robbie Robertson, Nicolai Dunger, and Richard Thompson. Steeped in the bold, big-sky expansiveness of the American Southwest, yet devoid of any of its machismo, Vance milks courage and strength from unflinching emotional honesty. Songs like the nervy "At Least My Heart Was Open," the bluesy, midtempo "Feel for Me," the arena-ready opener "Closed Hand, Full of Friends," and the gorgeous title cut, the latter of which posits "The joy of nothing is a sweeter something," are carried along by a refreshing sense of optimism, a word that is used quite infrequently when referring to records of the confessional singer/songwriter persuasion. Another plus is Vance's big, bluesy voice, which falls somewhere between the weathered midnight croon of Ray LaMontagne and the woodsy howl of John Fogerty, and it adds an air of rusty authenticity to measured country-folk confections like "Janey," "Regarding Your Lover," and the lush and languid midtempo closer, "Guiding Light," the latter of which features a guest vocal from Ed Sheeran. There's certainly nothing subtle about Joy of Nothing, as it's not afraid of making a grandiose statement, both musically and lyrically, but it never feels like Vance is putting on a front. After all, you can't play things close to the vest with your heart on your sleeve.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger