Stand in the Joy furthers Prince's commitment to making music imbued with pure country classicism and a just-as-pure-sounding sincerity
1. When You Miss Someone
2. Only Thing We Need
5. Broken Heart Of Mine
7. Goldie Hawn
8. Easier and Harder
9. Peace Of Mind
10. Take a Look Around
There may be a lot of hard edges in the world, but you won’t find them on a William Prince record. A confident calm runs through Stand in the Joy, the Canadian’s fourth full-length album, which furthers his commitment to making music imbued with pure country classicism and a just-as-pure-sounding sincerity.
At the heart of Prince’s sound is his assured, deep, buttery voice, which calls to mind a young Willie Nelson or Kenny Rogers. Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb — who Prince also worked with on his sophomore effort Reliever — serves to emphasize those qualities with lush and tasteful instrumentation that is as clear-eyed and grounded as Prince’s voice and vision.
Prince was born in Manitoba and grew up on a Peguis First Nation reservation, a direct descendent of Chief Peguis and the son of a preacher and musician. He honed his chops singing in his dad’s band and at church services, and while his recorded output is broadly secular, an attitude of faith and reverence for life permeates his music.
Whether explicitly referencing a higher power (“all that will be is already done” on ‘Only Thing We Need’, a song which looks to nature for proof of the regenerative properties of time and distance) or singing an ode to drinking with a new love (‘Tanqueray’), he brings an old-soul air of acceptance and compassion to both the characters who populate his songs and his delivery.
Songs like the album’s opener ‘When You Miss Some’ and ‘Broken Heart of Mine’ are tailor-made for the late-night jukebox, all pedal-steel, twang and heartbreak— even if it's hard to fully imagine Prince drowning his sorrows at a bar. “Don’t go faulting the assembly / How I’m dealing with this heartbreak / I’m just doing what they taught me,” he croons on the latter title, redemption, nonetheless, still within reach.
‘Tanqueray’ begins as a spoken word piece against a gently strummed guitar before Prince starts to sing of two mature hearts finding one another. ‘Goldie Hawn’ name-drops more than one artist (Joni Mitchel and Georgia O’Keefe, as well as Hawn), while remaining a bit ambiguous as to who the favorably compared subject actually is.
It’s not the only song of Prince’s that is a bit slippery to pin down, more evocative than specific, a quality which can be either liberating or maddening, pending the listener’s mood. As such, the most satisfying thing about ‘Easier and Harder’ is its up tempo — Prince’s default gear leans to balladry — than its lyrical depth. “The truth about love / It doesn't come all at once / It gets easier and harder all the time,” Prince sings, learning into advice-giving with another loose narrative that’s more tell than show.
Prince will pull you up but he won’t ever take you down, providing a needed balm for times like these but often leaving the listener wanting a bit more. While his gorgeous voice and big heart can trump such quibbles, we'd like to hear more about how exactly he found his joy.
Stand in the Joy is out on Friday 14th April via Six Shooter Records.