Joy Williams

Front Porch

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By calling her second album since the dissolution of the Civil Wars The Front Porch, Joy Williams acknowledges she may have drifted a little too far into modernity on Venus, the album that marked her solo secular debut. The phrase "The Front Porch" suggests warmth and intimacy redolent of home, so it's no surprise that the album finds Williams reconnecting with the folk music that brought her fame and acclaim as half of the Civil Wars. Working with producer Kenneth Pattengale, who is best known as part of the Milk Carton Kids, Williams strips away any contemporary affectations, keeping the focus directly on the songs and her plaintive, powerful voice. There are hints of faith scattered throughout the tales of heartbreak and character sketches, lending the album the slightest hint of spiritual gravity. Williams often sounds delicate but never brittle, which is why she's so convincing in such an unadorned setting. It can feel as if she's whispering secrets, but just when that gentleness threatens to get lulling, she scales great heights with elegance. These cannily deployed skills give The Front Porch the faintest hit of grit yet there's also a sense of fragility to the record; it's music that treasures the bittersweet melancholy of a moment that seems gone even as it's being lived.

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