Album Review: Foy Vance’s “To Memphis” Harkens to Americana Roots

To Memphis has a similar origin story to Vance’s From Muscle Shoals album, released earlier this year. Whereas that one was made up of a collection of songs he had written over the years that he felt were blues, this one is a collection of songs that are from his other inspiration – Americana. Both albums pay tribute to what Foy Vance feels are his major inspirations. To Memphis will be released on September 6th and will be followed by a tour that will begin in Woodstock on October 12th at Levon Helm Studios.

“Strong Hand” is the first track to be released, and upon listening to it, you can gather an understanding of what the feel of this album will be. Vance seems to take on the role of a rustic poet, his rolling voice lending an organic quality to the songs. In “Strong Hand”, he sings of how sometimes it takes the strength of someone else to help someone in their time of weakness. It’s this relationship that can inspire someone to “dig down deep and find the strength from somewhere.” 

Another track, “Alice from Dallas” is simpler in nature, and all the more tenderly felt because of it. In this song, Vance strums the guitar, singing dolefully of the women he has loved. The quiet guitar compliments the robust tone of his voice, reminiscent of something you would play around a campfire with your friends.  Vance has said, “I have always been such a massive fan of American Folk Music in all its many forms. There is a certain candidness to it.”  This sincerity that Vance admires is present in his own album. 

Vance has a powerful voice, and he uses it well in “The Christ and The Crook”.  Here he accepts his flaws as a human being, acknowledges his imperfections leave him perhaps wanting by the woman that he loves. The lyrics are incredibly powerful, contradicting the gospel feel that the song has as Vance’s voice crescendos and falls. “I ain’t about to go looking for answers, and the body of Christ is riddled with cancer,” Vance sings in the chorus. “If I want to get to the truth, I’ll just get out the book.” Here he seems to descry the rituals of the church to focus on the original source of the word itself. 

Like “From Muscle Shoals”, Vance’s voice lends itself to the genre that inspired him in “To Memphis”. The low tones of his vocal work are earthy and solid, the lyrics genuine and heartfelt, and the music – well, it’s beautifully rendered and pure magic to listen to. It’s like listening to the night sky as it comes to life, each note a star twinkling into being.

Notable Tracks: “Strong Hand”, “The Christ and the Crook”, “Wind Blows Chloe”

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