August 30, 2013

"Closed Hand, Full of Friends," by Foy Vance

They say you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose. That may be so, but you can grip your friends tightly and never let them go when confronted with heartbreak. I don't see that becoming a common expression, but it is the inspiration for this week's free single.

Foy Vance is an Irishman raised in the American south. Most of his childhood was spent moving throughout the south with his father, picking up musical influences along the way. He returned to Ireland years later and began writing music inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Vance's first album, Hope, was released in 2007. Since then he has produced and toured with Bonnie Raitt, Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol, amongst others.

"Closed Hand, Full of Friends" comes to us from Vance's second full album, Joy of Nothing, released August 27. It's been six years since the last album, but Vance recently signed with Glassnote Music, famous for their work with Mumford & Sons and Phoenix. Vance said in an interview that he considers this his first album, in a way. Like Bob Dylan, who changed styles and genres from album to album, Vance feels his songwriting has reinvented itself over time. The album is a powerful one, riddled with songs about heartbreak and love gone wrong. "Closed Hand, Full of Friends" is an anthemic call to cling to hope and find joy where you can, and is one of the more uplifting tracks on the album.

The song begins and is kept simple and soulful so you can get acquainted with Foy's voice and the melody of the song. I like that we get to focus on the lyrics at the beginning of the song, but I wish I could understand what he's saying. It's not even because of the Irish accent - the lyrics just aren't annunciated and get muddled. That said, what you can understand is beautiful.

"So let's start over with no means to an end,
Just in love and out of hope and a closed hand, full of friends."

The orchestral swell of the chorus and the rising drums are what really make this track a winner for me. It's a powerful southern anthem, and Vance's vocals are a perfect match for the genre. It really is a well-crafted song, transitioning seamlessly from verse to chorus, with moving dynamics and a driving tempo that just makes you want to move.

This isn't the only winner on the album, either. There's a beautiful duet with the famous Bonnie Raitt titled "You and I"; I'm a big fan of the Mumford & Sons-esque "At Least My Heart Was Open"; the moody and moving "Regarding Your Lover" really tugs at the heartstrings. If you're interested in more free music from Foy Vance, you can find a b-side track available on - get it before it's gone! But I digress from the song of the week...

"Closed Hand, Full of Friends" really moved me, and certainly sparked my interest in this emotionally charged singer/songwriter that I hadn't been exposed to. I wouldn't call it my new favorite song, but I am definitely a fan of Mr. Vance from here on out, and that's really what these free singles are all about. With that in mind, I give this week's free single

4 out of 5.

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