The third studio long-player from the soulful Northern Irishman, and his first outing for longtime tourmate Ed Sheeran's Gingerbread Man Records, The Wild Swan finds Vance offering up another master class in contemporary, Emerald Isle-infused roots rock. Opening with the rollicking, slap bass-driven "Noam Chomsky Is a Soft Revolution," a future live staple that perfectly encapsulates Vance's Otis Redding meets The Commitments vibe, the 12-track set both invigorates and soothes. Produced in Nashville by Jacquire King (James Bay, Tom Waits) -- Elton John and Sheeran serve as executive producers -- easy, Sunday-afternoon porch jams like "Upbeat Feelgood" and "Unlike Any Other" will do little to quell the Van Morrison comparisons, but Vance is such an affable and capable tunesmith that, even at his most Belfast Cowboy, his songs never feel like fan fiction. In fact, he's closer in tone and regional timbre to English folk-rocker Jez Lowe, especially on some of the album's more spiritual and bucolic numbers, like the nostalgic "Bangor Town" and the impossibly lovely, hymn-like closer, "The Wild Swans on the Lake." Elsewhere, the album's lead single, the wistful "She Burns," with its percussive, softly picked guitars and slick production, echoes Tunnel of Love-era Bruce Springsteen, while the spirited, Lumineers-esque unity anthem "Fire It Up (The Silver Spear)" inspires without ever coming off as schmaltzy. With three albums under his belt, Vance has settled into a nice groove, and on The Wild Swan, he's pulled off a neat trick. He dons some familiar hats, but never loses himself beneath the brim.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger