Joy Williams’ first solo album post The Civil Wars breakup is uniquely personal. Lyrically the album is very strong — reminiscent of The Civil Wars at their best — and Williams’ voice is as good as it’s ever been. This album needs to be in your rotation. Below I briefly review each song and totally gush about a few in particular.
Before I Sleep:
“Before I Sleep” is an excellent opening song and sets the tone right as the drums really begin to crescendo. Williams is giving us a song that is vaguely like The Civil Wars in sound and just as complex lyrically.
Oh, I just keep stumbling
Oh, and it’s a sinned kiss facing unforgiving winds
Feel the cold, it’s creeping in, oh
Sweet Love of Mine:
Lyrics strongly on display with the next track, and it’s got a very pop sound to it. I don’t immediately love it as much, but there’s some excellent humming harmonies that separates it from the radio pop we’re all used to. It vaguely sounds like a Lorde song.
When you found me, I was all alone
The whole world around me, but nowhere to call home
I heard your voice sing like heaven’s choir
Gathered up my fears and threw them in the fire
Woman (Oh Mama):
The first single from the album, “Woman” is fine. It’s catchy and destined to be a pop hit. It makes me shake my head and I’m a sucker for clapping in a song. Plus, it’s a song about a strong woman, and the “Oh mama” repeating verse is extremely catchy. I’ve conveniently made the video available to you all!
One Day I Will:
We all know Williams is a gifted pianist, and this song is just her and her piano, save for a bit of drums and strings that mostly stay in the background. “One Day I Will” definitely feels like her getting over the demise of The Civil Wars. She starts in a place of regret and by the end she’s reached peace; she’s happy with their story and what they had.
When I look back, I’d like to say
I’m better off on my own
And even though right now, I don’t feel strong
One day I will, I will
Not Good Enough:
Whereas “One Day I Will” was written for her former band mate and giving up, “Not Good Enough” is definitely a song where she wants to keep fighting. This time for her husband, the person most worth fighting for. This one really got to me and it’s easily worth a spot on your playlist.
Don’t you try to look away
Don’t try to leave, try to stay
Go on, we’ve come so far
Go on, reach into the dark
What a Good Woman Does:
If Williams wants to reinvent herself as a solo artist, all she has to do is have everyone listen to “What a Good Woman Does.” Accompanied only by piano, Williams sings about not losing her voice despite all that’s happened in her life. A truly haunting, phenomenal song. When she sings “Hear me!” I just want to wrap my arms around her and never stop listening to her. I’ve listened to this one no less than a dozen times and the only reason I stopped was to keep listening to the rest of the songs on the album.
Until The Levee:
I”m so glad I stopped and went on the next song! The biggest problem with this one is that it’s just too short. I could listen to “Until The Levee” for ages. This is my favorite track on the album — while good, “Mama” left me longing for something more; “Until The Levee” delivers in a big way.
You Loved Me:
The lack of guitars on the album is slowly becoming noticeable. I’m sure it was a conscious decision from Williams — to further separate from her Civil Wars persona — but this song just really needs something more. Lyrically this song is fine and Williams seems incredibly vulnerable, but it feels a bit incomplete.
I had all the answers; that was easier than facing the dark
And I sold my story until the story started falling apart
Every secret spoken, out there in the open
I’ve pretended not to see
The Dying Kind:
“The Dying Kind” is almost like a spiritual of sorts. Still no guitars, but this one is heavier on the piano and drums, so I don’t mind too much. It’s nothing special, and the song feels like it’s about to build and it just never does.
Yay, guitars! Albeit briefly. Remaining heavy on the pop sound, “Till Forever” is a nice return after a few ho-hum tracks. Williams has regained her strength and pulled herself up and really shows off her incredible range.
We grow stronger for breaking
We grow stronger for breaking apart together
Welcome Home :
Another truly beautiful song. Williams is able to convey so much through her angelic voice. An ode to her son, this song is full of love and hope. So lovely. As a mother I want to sing this to my son every night, even though he’s three-years-old.
You belong, you are loved, you are wanted
You’re not alone
I’ve missed you so
Overall, you need to add this album and give it a good listen. It’s definitely worth it. I can’t wait to hear what else Williams comes up with.
“What A Good Woman Does”
“Until The Levee”