In 2013, the Glasgow Guardian interviewed Northern Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance prior to the release of his album ‘Joy of Nothing’. Two years later, and Vance is going from strength to strength. His music, an effortless blend of soul and uplifting charm, has seen him garner serious success of late, and his latest release ‘Live at Bangor Abbey’ perfectly encapsulates the power and poignancy of Vance’s music.
Born in Bangor and raised in the States, where his father worked as a preacher, Vance cites his religious upbringing as being a key influence on his music. Right from his earliest offerings, including that of the critically acclaimed ‘Gabriel and the Vagabonds’ EP back in 2006, to the release of the long-awaited second album ‘Joy of Nothing’, Vance’s music is drenched with gospel-tinged melancholy and beautifully emotive lyrics, and ‘Live at Bangor Abbey’ is no different.
Recorded late last August on Vance’s home turf of County Down, ‘Live at Bangor Abbey’ sees the singer revisiting old and new material. Originally set for release in November 2014, it was eventually made available on the 10th of February, with the album being recorded over two shows at the historic Bangor Abbey, nestled in the heart of the county.
With a live band accompanying him, Vance opens with a bittersweet rendition of ‘At Least My Heart Was Open’, shortly followed by ‘Joy of Nothing’, with Vance’s heartbreakingly beautiful performance setting the tone for the recording. Known for his easy-going charm, the album also sees Vance’s humorous side; at the close of ‘Be The Song’, he asks the audience to “turn to your hymn books, to page 355…” with this quip, amongst many others, drawing a hearty laugh.
Other stands out tracks include personal favourites ‘Janey’, and the hauntingly powerful ‘Two Shades of Hope’. It is Vance’s fusion of the personal with the poignant and the combination of beautifully crafted lyrics with bluesy vocals that makes his music so timeless. ‘Live at Bangor Abbey’ showcases the singer’s deeply personal tales of love, heart-break and struggle, and it’s a work of extraordinary musical prowess. This is, without a doubt, Foy Vance at his very best.
‘Live at Bangor Abbey’ is out now, and will shortly be available on vinyl.