Laura Joy - What I Know
2011, Laura Joy Music
In a world full of dark affectations and third and fourth guesses, Laura Joy is a breath of fresh air. With a percussive fingerstyle guitar reminiscent of Ani DiFranco and a songwriting flair that recalls the likes of Joni Mitchell and Rebecca Martin, Laura Joy crafts personal tales in song that are both touching and entertaining. The Phoenix native who has most recently prowled the stages of bars and coffee houses in New York shines with brilliance both on stage and in the recording studio. Her upcoming third album, What I Know, shows this same propensity for writing personal yet accessible folk songs but also shows a growing maturity as a songwriter and artist.
What I Know opens with "Fallin'", and emotionally urgent number that decries falling in love. Joy's almost conversational singing style is the perfect touch here. This is how you start an album; with a well-written, emotionally committed song gull of energy. "Breathe" keeps things simple, while attempting to stay afloat in difficult emotional waters. Joy gives a biopic in song with "Lizzie", channeling her inner Ani DiFranco on a vibrant story song. Laura Joy's vocal tone is exquisite here, and the songwriting is spot on.
"What I Know" is written in a barreling, stream of thought style, exploring the doubts of an artist in contrast to the idea that if you keep pushing you can make your dreams come true. Anyone who has ever created art and had someone else knock it down will identify with the sentiments expressed here. Joy builds great energy into the acoustic guitar accompaniment. Joy revives "Six Flights" from her previous album of the same name, detailing the minutiae of everyday life in the city and wonder found somewhere in between the details. The song hasn't changed, but Joy's voice and perspective continue to mature, giving the song a fuller, richer sound this time around.
"Arrive" is a long-form, pensive speculation on life and direction that's more about journey than destination. It underscores a maturity in Joy's songwriting that seems to have advanced since she released Six Flights in 2008. "Score" wants to be a bluesy number; while not quite attaining the sound, Joy imbues the song with a sensibility that's not dissimilar, and a vibrant energy that's relentless. There's a sense of finality to this song, where the narrator has spent a lot of time building to this point and is more invested in any answer than a particular one.
Joy closes the album with three holdovers from her previous album, Six Flights. "Rose Remains" was beautiful last time around and little has changed. "Plan" has a dancing energy to it that's irresistible. Where the original was plainspoken and sweet, Joy sings it this time with a sense of soul and perhaps even a bit of reverie. The song isn't quite so rushed this time around and works even better than the original. What I Know bows with "Ride Home", a song of emotional survival and uncertainty. Laura Joy's voice is full and warm and utterly gorgeous on this number, caressing the sweet chorus like a mother holding her child.
Listening to "What I Know" is like watching a flower that's been growing in the corner of garden finally come into full bloom. Laura Joy has made the transition from burgeoning singer/songwriter to artist. While Joy has always displayed a distinctive talent for song craft and a sweet disposition as a performer, now she shows the depth and warmth of a seasoned artist and singer of songs. For Laura Joy life will always be a journey, but if "What I Know" is any indication, it's a ride that listeners will want to follow along. "What I Know" is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)