The son of a traveling church minister, Northern Irish singer/songwriter Foy Vance spent the first five years of his life in the deep south, and he explores those roots on From Muscle Shoals. The first installment of a two-part dive into roots music, which also includes the Americana-leaning To Memphis, the ten-track set was recorded at the iconic FAME Studios in Alabama and features a seasoned crew of session players including original "Swampers" Spooner Oldham (keys) and David Hood (bass). Comprised of ten cuts, two of which ("Be with Me" and "Make It Rain") are punched-up versions of earlier works, Vance's 24-grit vocals and bluesy swagger go a long way in selling the material, as does the stellar musicianship of all involved, but in attempting to emulate a classic soul album, From Muscle Shoals -- a very on-the-nose name -- feels more like a facsimile. A workmanlike pastiche of well-oiled grooves, melodies, and lyrics that sound like they were run through a Stax Records song generator, Vance and company do their best to inject the proceedings with some zeal, but the shadows of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Percy Sledge loom too large. Like Van Morrison, soul and R&B have always been at the forefront of Vance's particular brand of Irish-American folk, but From Muscle Shoals leans too hard in one direction and ultimately fails to distinguish itself from its source material.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger