‘Venus’ is the fourth full-length solo album from Joy Williams, and perfectly demonstrates the versatility of the former contemporary Christian-pop singer. Fans of folk duo the Civil Wars were eager to see what Joy would produce following the dramatic estrangement between herself and John Paul White. Ruthlessly intimate, unashamedly honest and empowering, ‘Venus’ is the response we have all been waiting for.
Opening track ‘Before I Sleep’, a haunting tone that draws on nature and the environment around her, conveys her mind-set and starts her journey with a chorus that stems from poet Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, “I got miles and miles to go before I sleep, before I can feel anything, before I’m free”.
Taking a bold step into the pop genre with a sound that sustains its originality, Williams merges the brooding folk music she was known for and reinvents her musical identity with the ever-expanding pop and occasional electronic vibe. ‘Not Good Enough’ exemplifies this with its bursts of impulsive synths, not unlike the underlining tendency of most indie-pop bands. However despite its buoyant tone, the lyrics “Am I asking too much? Are you all out of love?” suggest the songs real meaning is about the vulnerable and complex nature of her relationship with husband Nate Yetton.
The progression of the 11-song cycle is an exposition of Williams’ tests and trials throughout the years it took to produce the album, some of which includes the changes brought on by motherhood, life after the Civil Wars and the heart-breaking loss of her father who died from cancer.
An oblique reference is made in the mournful ‘What a Good Woman Does’ about the break up of musical partner John Paul White, “I can tell the truth about you leaving, but that’s not what a good woman does” implying her strength in remaining silent, maybe not the insightful explanation of their separation we were hoping for, but perhaps a newly found respect for the woman she is.
The album comes to a close with the sentimental ‘Welcome Home’, written for her song Miles. A resonating song of true belonging that’s meaning is everlasting.
‘Venus’ is Joy Williams’ eclectic approach to advancing as an artist, varying from the dynamic and uplifting ‘Woman (Oh Mama)’ to the beautifully sorrow ‘One Day I Will’, clearly embracing her inner Kate Bush. Above anything ‘Venus’ is truthful, a quality that is the distinct reason why this album cannot be ignored.