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Joy Williams

Front Porch – 2019 (Sensibility)

Reviewed by Corinne Brown

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CDs by Joy Williams

Joy Williams' "Front Porch" album is a beautiful collection of acoustic, country-folk music. The title cut, for instance, includes sweet fiddling, while the rest of the album takes an appreciated low-key approach to its instrumentation. However, Williams singing is the most exemplary element of all. She sings like an empathetic, motherly country girl.

The title track plays out like a letter to a Prodigal Son. Family is there waiting, always willing to forgive. (Perhaps she was, herself, on the receiving end of this unconditional love, if "Preacher's Daughter" is fully autobiographical). It's followed by the incredibly sad "When Does a Heart Move On," which asks an extremely difficult question. With her quivery voice singing over gentle (mostly) mandolin accompaniment, Williams faces the myth of closure head on. It's tough to know if some wounds ever completely heal. The fingerpicked "No Place Like You" speaks to a different side of love. In this instance, love is a welcome destination, not unlike arriving home after being away for a while. Williams even sings a bit of it with some truly soulful gusto. "One and Only," although not especially complicated, includes a lovely, lilting Williams vocal. It's nearly impossible to feel unhappy after listening to this one.

"Preacher's Daughter" tells a common PK (preacher's kid) story about how children of ministers are oftentimes troublemakers. "I was the one he could not tame/Bound to scuff up the family name," Williams admits. However, she was able to reconcile before he passed on. "I took him to the brink/He forgave me at the kitchen sink/Like an Alter, I laid all my burdens down." This may be Williams' story, but it's a story all too familiar to church folk.

With its intelligence, honesty and strong performances, "Front Porch" is bound to wind up on many 'best of 2019' lists. It's just that good.