Album Review: Foy Vance Gets the Muscle Shoals Treatment on “From Muscle Shoals”

Within the first few notes of Foy Vance‘s album “From Muscle Shoals”, the mood is set. The throaty overtones of Vance’s voice combine with the gentle strumming of the acoustic, and it is as if he is able to sing every emotion you could ever feel. This collection of songs had been written by Vance over the years, each one merely labeled as ‘Blues’, accumulating until he realized that he had enough to create a full album. Once he did, he knew that there was only one place where he could record these songs for them to have the right feel.  That place was none other than Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. 

Fame Studios, which was founded in the 1950s by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill, and Tom Stafford;  has had many incredible acts record hits there. Notable performers include Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones. All of these songs have a certain Muscle Shoals sound,  deep and resonant. Vance’s album is no exception. The earthy quality of his voice invokes a casual sway of the hips, an easy grace that underlies the skilled songwriting and deeply personal lyrics. 

The album begins with the soulful “You Get to Me”. Vance describes the intricacies of a relationship in which he felt he had originally been held down and chained to someone else. Now that he is free, he is unsure of how to handle that freedom. It expresses a remorse for something lost, perhaps an idealization of how things could have been despite the pitfalls and setbacks that can occur in a relationship. Another track which covers the agonies of love is “Pain Never Hurt Me Like Love”. Vance sings of the struggle of loving someone, but not feeling as if he were receiving enough in return. Therefore, he had to let his love go because the balance was not equal. It can be hard to safeguard yourself when it comes to the feelings you may have for another, and this song describes the internal conflict beautifully. 

Not all of the songs are heart-wrenching, some carry a more upbeat tune, such as “Good Time Southern Soul.” It’s a jubilant song for rambling roads. It’s for late night adventures and dancing feet. Cleverly written, it has joyful vocals and a quick beat. It’s a definite feel good song. 

The album was co-produced by both Vance and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes, John Paul White, Nicole Atkins) and features Spooner Oldham on keys and David Hood on bass. Oldham and Hood are two of the original ‘Swampers‘, Muscle Shoals house band who played on many of the major hits recorded there in the 60s and 70s.  

“From Muscle Shoals” is the first of two companion albums, the second of which “To Memphis” will be released in September and is a collection of Americana songs. After the release of “To Memphis”, Foy Vance will begin an extensive tour of both North America and the United Kingdom. The tour will begin in Woodstock, NY on October 12th at Levon Helm Studios. 

Notable tracks: “You Get to Me”, “Pain Never Hurt Me Like Love”

Tickets to Woodstock Show:

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