There are few joys more nourishing than finding music that embraces you with sadness rather than letting you wallow — music that is rich with life and melody and imbued with a sorrow that melds itself to your day instead of swallowing it up. William Prince is a master of this kind of song — the kind that might bring a silent tear to your eye as you drive with the windows down on a sunny day, a friend in the passenger seat.
Prince’s sophomore record, Reliever, is lush and warm, weighted by personal histories and both a sweeping regret and a sense of quiet hope.
Prince is an economic and concise songwriter, capable of familiar melodies that flirt with pop structures but retain an earthen solidity — his adult-contemporary folk stylings are somehow more invigorating than that pop label might suggest.
The highlights are plentiful, from the stunning gallop of “Old Souls” to the beautiful harmonies of “Leave It by the Sea,” each song makes the most of Prince’s chosen set of musical colours — acoustic guitar, gentle drums, piano, strings and voice.
However, Reliever also suffers for its dedication to this particular palette, and with so many beautiful songs built from similar underlying hues, the record’s songs inevitably starts to blend together.
Still, it’s hard to complain about a wash of music as lovely and deeply felt as this.
Reliever is a world unto itself, a golden field where you can lay your head and consider the world. Prince’s rich baritone — heavy with echoes of Johnny Cash’s late-career rumble — is comforting and complex, capable of expressing vast swaths of feeling despite its limited range.
His lyrics too are both heavy and strangely comforting, sung with a wise compassion that relates all things living and dead, past and present. It’s a record concerned with big picture ideas — faith, love, death, remembrance — and its golden-hour haze makes for a reassuring soundtrack to introspection.
The record’s gentle pace and traditional sound benefit from Prince’s knack for memorable melody and bottomless feeling — he’s able to emote profoundly with even the simplest delivery and arrangement. It’s a collection of songs that will likely sneak up on you, far greater than the sum of its parts.