Street Sounds: Civil Wars singer goes solo

American singer/songwriter Joy Williams’ new album, Venus is a re-emergence after the breakup of her folk duo The Civil Wars.

American singer/songwriter Joy Williams’ new album, Venus is a re-emergence after the breakup of her folk duo The Civil Wars.

Venus is a bounce back recording and Williams draws on her past as a former Christian pop singer and reborn gothic folk singer.

Those expecting the haunted atmospherics of The Civil Wars may be disappointed by Venus. The duo’s beguiling antique folk personality won them several Grammys and gave them much alternative cred. Williams skips the brooding undertones of her former group and replaces that acoustic sensibility with electronically directed songs. She showcases vulnerability in her vocal performance and this gives the record a confessional tinge. The songs are honest but sometimes the pace drags.

The catharsis that threads the material together ramps the energy up at several points. Woman (Oh Mama) has Williams pouring her heart out over a tribal beat. This song has a dynamic connection with her previous work as does When the Levee.  These songs have a wide appeal while Williams also crafts an individual sound that merges the synth-pop of her early years with the passionate bluesiness of her later music.

The Dying Kind keeps the mystery going – a mood Williams is naturally drawn to.

Venus isn’t exciting enough to be drawn to immediately, but Williams’ vocal persona and dusky songs are easy on the senses.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician. He reviews new music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.