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First things first: my review of this project. I very much enjoyed listening to “Venus”, Joy Williams’ first solo recording effort since the break-up of The Civil Wars. The songs are well-written. Her lilting voice is still just as lovely. (There were a couple of moments where I for the first time noticed a “Dolly Parton-like” tremor/quality to her voice. ) So, if you enjoyed her work before, you’ll enjoy this project very much. And if you’re unfamiliar with her previous work, there’s still a lot to love here. The work stands well, on its own, without having ever listened to the group called The Civil Wars.
I’m a writer. As an adolescent, I used to pore over the song lyrics sheets of my favorite albums, analyzing, working on attempting to understand and “know” the hearts of my favorite artists and writers. (James Taylor, Bernie Taupin: I’m talking to you.) So, it’s my M.O. to listen carefully to lyrics, and to attempt to analyze what I’m hearing. Hey, I have a Master’s degree in Counseling. Comes with the territory.
If you’ve ever watched a partnership, a marriage, or a friendship break up publicly via the internet, it’s an excruciatingly painful process, particularly if you personally know the people in the relationship. It’s not just fodder for massive amounts of popcorn-consumption for the virtual voyeurs of the world. A break-up involves real people, with real broken hearts. And those broken hearts get talked about, in public, by people who know only what they’ve read on the internet. Which, as we all know, contains all truth. (Insert eye-roll here.)
So, if at least one of the people involved in the break-up uses her artistic gift, her writing, to express very personal thoughts publicly…let’s say that woman is a songwriter, like, Joy Williams, well, at least some of the songs that come out of that break-up are likely to reflect her thoughts and feelings on the dissolution. Can anyone say “Taylor Swift”? I thought you could.
My brief bit of research online into the breakup of the group The Civll Wars shows that the other half of the partnership, has “gone dark” about the break up, refusing to discuss it, at all.
In her new album, “Venus”, Joy Williams comes ~pretty~ close to keeping mum on the subject….all the while she refers to it. The songs “That’s Not What a Good Woman Does” and “One Day I Will” seem to contain the most direct references to the breakup, and she at least makes it clear WHO left WHOM in the dissolution of the group. These were, coincidentally, or not, two of my favorite songs.
So, if you were a The Civil Wars fan, you might enjoy listening to those lyrics, and seeing what “clues” you can ferret out about how Joy Williams feels about the break-up. I do think the Bottom Line Message of this album is: Joy Williams is moving on, and she wants this album to be all about her re-finding her own voice, and coming into her own.
It’s sad, the break-up of two voices who so immediately and completely complemented each other’s styles. And I guess for her to get to the other side of The End, a couple or three songs had to be written, to work through that stuff. As a writer, I understand the release that comes when you take the thoughts that are swirling around inside your head, and commit them to paper, finally expressing your feelings. And we, the listeners, have no idea how many *other* songs were written in working through things, that didn’t see the light of this project’s day.
This brings up the issue of whether or not a writer chooses to put those thoughts out there for public consumption. Well, it’s a fine line, to use her words, as to whether or not that’s “What a Good Woman Does”. Many, many people will relate to the feelings expressed by the writer, and be grateful that someone has turned *their* feelings into art. And let’s face it, great art often comes out of great suffering. But when your suffering involves referring to the life and reputation of others, do you remain mum, because “That’s Not What a Good Woman Does”? Or do you carry your heart out into the public square, and expose it – where it’s once again fair game for anyone to take a shot at it – for the sake of being “authentic”? Not to mention, there’s the whole question of perception. One person’s perception of the dissolution MIGHT be accurate, or possibly, could also be less than accurate, and could potentially inflict further damage on the former partner, and his reputation.
All questions I don’t know how to resolve, apart from what life always comes down to for me: I want to treat the other person the way I would want to be treated. Is it possible to refer to the pain, with respect for the other party? I *think* so. But that’s the dilemma.
In the meantime, there is the music. And if you enjoy listening to good music, while you mull over life’s impossible questions, I think you’ll enjoy this project.
This song, “Oh, Mama” is the video that was made available to me to share. While it will appeal to many, as it’s an anthem in regard to one woman finding her personal power, (and believe me, I’m totally in favor of people coming into who they are, and embracing their identity), it’s not my favorite song, personally. It has grown on me, after repeated listenings. I like her voice. I like the driving rhythm. But I find the lyric, “I am the Universe wrapped in skin” a bit grandiose. Plus, I’m not into lyrics that seem to champion one sex over another. Women are great. Yay, women. Men are great. Yay, men. Can’t we all just get along?
But that’s probably just me.
Overall, I enjoyed this project very much, and it will be on my list of music that gets replayed, often.
The album will become available in stores on June 29th. Here are a couple of links, where you can order this album, in iTunes, and Amazon: