My friends listen to Blackstreet, but we had D.C. Talk. The girls went to *NSYNC concerts, but we had Plus One. The Spice Girls were a world wide rage, but Point of Grace was playing in MY bedroom. The guys at school listened to Mighty Mighty Bosstones, while the guys at CHURCH rocked out to Supertones. There was even cool cross-over Christian music like Newsboys, Switchfoot and Jars of Clay. And for the Christian answer to Jewel and Sarah MacLachlan, we had Joy Williams.
As a Christian teen, I especially loved Joy because we were around the same age, she had my dream job (CCM star) and was from California. Total girl crush. My fangirl memory with Joy Williams was seeing her open for Mark Schultz and sing the part of Ginny Owens with Mark for “Remember Me.” I cried.
As I went through college, I started disconnecting myself from my Christian roots. That’s a whole big story for a whole other time, but being raised an Evangelical my whole life and then learning that the “secular world” works quite differently than I was led to believe had a true effect on me that lasts even to this day. I was in college in Nashville, struggling with my faith around the same time a lot of people in the Christian community were. Joy Williams was living in Nashville, recently married, and we had a lot of mutual friends. I remember seeing her at house parties or at our mutual friend’s bands shows. I never knew her. I recall one conversation with her and her friends in a kitchen where I probably stood there like the star struck formerly-christian-teen girl that I was.
After college, I moved home to Philadelphia. Somehow, probably because of my weirdo stalking tendencies and our mutual friends, I ended up following Joy Williams on social media. I think it was more of a personal account at the time (because no one had a professional page or account back then) and I remember her occasionally releasing pop songs, a few that were used in TV Shows and in commercials. Joy had a break with her CCM roots at some point in her early 20s. Maybe it was my influence awkwardly staring at her one time in the kitchen at a party.
I vividly remember the day Joy posted a teaser video with her friend John Paul White of a new project they were working on. It looked like it was shot with a 35mm filter using a mobile app, in a closet.
This video, in it’s 240p quality glory, still gives me goosebumps.
(Shout out to the popular flower-bows in hair of 2008-2009)
The Civil Wars was the most incredible band / duo that left us too soon. I saw them every time they came to Philadelphia- the most memorable time being in this tiny room with less than 20 people. The intimacy of Joy and John, plus the intensity of their songs was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I doubt I’ll see it again.
If you can feel the intimacy in a video this terrible, imagine what it was like in real life:
But they broke up. Here are my thoughts on that.
Since their break up, Joy and John have gone on to make beautiful music on their own. Some of the things I’ve heard from John come up in random Spotify playlists lately are incredible. His voice stands out, but it’s his lyrics that are the most distinctive.
Joy released Venus in 2015 and it was good. I like it, a lot. I still listen to it, though I find myself playing songs from The Civil Wars more often. “What a Good Woman Does” is a beautiful song about the weight we carry around as women. How we stay quiet. Or it’s a song about The Civil Wars breakup, who knows:
I can’t carry the weight of this war
I can’t do it anymore
Everyone’s wounded, nobody’s won
I haven’t lost my voice without you near me
I can tell the truth about you leaving
But that’s not what a good woman does
Venus pulled from Joy’s pop roots, but what made The Civil Wars shine for me was its roots in folk music. It was country, Americana and Folk into one. And, as we’ve established I know a lot about Joy’s music, I think there is where she shines.
On Friday, Joy released Front Porch. I haven’t turned it off. The song balances the folk and country genre that Joy does so well, mixed with masterful song writing. And it’s painful.
Take “Preachers Daughter”, a song written for her father who recently passed away:
I took him to the brink
He forgave me at the kitchen sink
Like an altar, I laid all my burdens down
And the day that he passed on
I lost a little piece of God
But I see his smile in the son that I have now
and my favorite heartbreaker “When Does a Heart Move On”
I’m home, you’re gone
But I’ll leave the light on
But we both know that you’re not coming home
We both know that you’re not coming home
When does a heart move on?
Do you know the moment that it’s over?
‘Cause we could drag this on and on
Tried to be strong but it’s been too long
When does a heart move on?
A few months ago, Joy unexpectedly and abruptly cancelled her planned tour for Front Porch. She cited “a difficult and blindsiding personal matter”, the need to “be there for my babies”, and “adjust to a new reality I didn’t foresee.”
I have strong thoughts on what could be going on, mostly due to my stalking and, well, I don’t know that it isn’t quite obvious, but I’d rather just share embarrassing stories of my fangirling over Joy in my younger years instead of diving into my thoughts here. Support her and her album! Do yourself a favor and listen to Front Porch today.