One thing you expect from an artist born in Northern Ireland is to hear the unmistakable Northern Irish accent in their voice, but the first thing that greets you on 'A Closed Hand, Full of Friends', the opening track on Foy Vance's debut album, is how, well, American he sounds. While there are plenty of traces of his native land to be found across Joy of Nothing, the time spent in the American midwest with his dad during his formative years has really rubbed off on him.

It's not a particularly American-sounding album, though; bringing it back home to be recorded in Donegal has definitely helped his creative vision to shine through. This is his first album in six years, and is a powerful and evocative record that flies in the face of its nihilistic title.

"The joy of nothing is as sweet as something" he proclaims on the title track, and there are plenty of other reasons for him to be joyful. Even when he's ruminating on such things as failed relationships ("I tried to do what I thought was right, and I know I fucked it up sometimes, but at least my heart was open"), Vance does so in a way that's not insular and detached, but widescreen and ambitious. These 10 songs touch on some deeply personal topics for him, but he addresses them with musical and lyrical openness. He's been quite active as a touring musician, too, touring with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Ed Sheeran, and both of those show up to contribute vocals on the album, the former harmonising with Vance on the string-flecked 'You and I', and the latter popping up on the heart-swelling closer 'Guiding Light' in manner that seems incongruous in theory, but works quite well in practice.

Vance, along with Sheeran, has been lumped into the singer-songwriter bracket, and while we all know what sort of images that tag conjures up, he manages to sidestep the lot of them. This is a richly detailed album that is sumptuously orchestrated, full of songs that are musically direct and sometimes veer off in unexpected directions; case in point: lead single 'Janey', which is written in 7/4 (unusual for pop music) and has an extremely interesting bridge; both of these are factors which lift it out of the usual singer-songwriter fare and render it more distinguishable.

In a genre like Vance's, you have to be doing interesting things to get noticed, and Joy of Nothing is full of interesting things. Once you get past the bright melodies and excellent lyricism, the record's subtleties start to reveal themselves, and that's when it really takes hold.