Some artists get your attention on the first take.
Some you have to listen to for a while before their music begins to grow on you.
Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance falls into the first category.
I hadn’t made it all the way through Closed Hand, Full of Friends, the first single from Vance’s Joy of Nothing before I was hooked on this record.
And I’m not alone there.
That track was chosen by ITunes as this week’s single of the week.
I can’t help but wonder why Vance’s music hasn’t gotten more play on this side of the Atlantic.
There’s no question he’s got the chops. Joy of Nothing clearly shows that.
And he has had some exposure here before. The producers of Grey’s Anatomy used two of his songs on that series, Gabriel and the Vagabond and Homebird.
He also scored the Oscar-winning short-film The Shore with David Holmes, who collaborated with him on his 2012 Melrose EP.
I suppose having the right people in your corner when you’ve got the makings of a great record in your head likely has a lot to do with how much exposure you receive.
And this time it appears the stars have all aligned themselves for the 39-year-old Foy who’s now signed to Glassnote, the same indie record label that is home to acts like Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Little Green Cars and Two Door Cinema Club.
I can’t quite pin down what it is about Joy of Nothing that appeals to me more, the strength of the material or Foy’s deeply soulful vocals.
Foy’s sound is unique, but then so is his story.
Born in the seaside resort town of Bangor in Northern Ireland he spent part of his youth in Oklahoma where his father, a travelling preacher, was posted for a period of time.
While in America he developed a passion for the soul, blues and jazz of the southern states, a passion that stayed with him after his return to Northern Ireland.
That music and the folk music of his Northern Irish homeland both factor into the songs he has written since then.
You can certainly hear the influence of both on Joy of Nothing.
There are times when what I’m hearing reminds me of another proud son of Northern Ireland, Van Morrison, who was born fewer than 15 miles away from Vance in Belfast.
Likewise there are moments when what I’m hearing reminds me of an artist like Lyle Lovett.
The songs on Joy of Nothing go right for the heart.
Specifically, these 10 songs focus on what his label so eloquently calls “the sweet hurt of love.”
Vance writes with passion, with tenderness and with no small amount of insight about the impact of love gone wrong on those who find themselves trying to pick up the pieces and move on with life when it all goes south.
There is sadness, but there is also joy because you get the sense the people he writes about will come out all right on the other side, although it may take some time.
Sounds somewhat depressing but it really isn’t.
Foy received help from some very special friends in the making of this record, most notably Bonnie Raitt and Ed Sheeran, both of whom he has toured with.
Raitt duets with him on one of the record’s finest offerings, You And I, while Sheeran appears on the album’s closing track, Guiding Light.
It’s dandy stuff all around.
Choice offerings on this set include the three tracks mentioned above, as well as Janey, Regarding Your Lover and At Least My Heart Was Open.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.