Foy Vance's debut album has been a long time coming. Having spent the better part of the 1990s fronting a variety of soul and funk bands in his native Northern Ireland, he closed out the decade a transformed artist. His new style was steeped as heavily in traditional and modern folk as it was soul, gospel, and blues, and despite gaining significant acclaim as a live performer, it's taken the guts of seven years to produce a full-length release. That product, entitled Hope, is as optimistic and mood-lifting as its title suggests, as tracks like the standout "Shed a Little Light" and "^Hope, Peace & Love" testify; each evokes sleek Southern gospel as Vance bounces his smoky baritone off sweet female harmonies. Lead single "Be with Me" is an ambitious heavy blues that boasts a riotous Otis Redding-like vocal performance, while on the more reflective side, a curious mesh of influences involving Marvin Gaye and Bonnie "Prince" Billy gives rise to the beautifully understated pop number "If You Could Only See Yourself Like I See You." The lyrics are a little more complex; while the overarching theme is ultimately a vindication of hope, it's by no means a one-dimensional examination. Album highlight "Indiscriminate Act of Kindness" is Vance's greatest vocal; with the aid of little more than an acoustic guitar, he resurrects Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone at their visceral, unself-conscious best. Equally, the lyric is his bluntest by some margin, examining the less attractive side of charity with strong allusions to the Nativity story. A hotel concierge and a homeless drug addict form the updated, but no less sympathetic, cast. Hope's main pitfall is its length. It clocks in over 70 minutes, and while it only occasionally dips in quality, it's enough to render it a slightly disjointed listen.
AllMusic Review by Dave Donnelly