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By Surprise
Artist: Joy Williams
Label: Reunion Records
Tracks/Time: 10/39mins

By Surprise is Joy Williams' sophomore album, following up her self-titled 2001 release.It is apparent in this album right from the first track that Joy's music has expanded considerably.

To classify this album as 'pop' might be a bit of a stretch. Her first album was pop but this takes on stronger roots as she admits more heavier guitar work and drums to replace computerized vocals and backing instruments. There are still songs with pop roots, but there just seems to be much more grounding and strength in the music.

Nothing can get in the way of Joy Williams' amazing passionate lyrics and vocals that she is so recognized for. This girl can sing so powerfully. Mix that with her touching lyrics--goose bumps! As mentioned, the 'new sound' is apparent right from the start. "New Day" starts off the album on a louder note than anything from her previous work. It's a great song to start the album because it immediately introduces her progression in music.

On the other side, the third song, "Every Moment," is more of a ballad focusing more on piano and softer vocals through the verses. Further into the song, it gets a bit more intense as it brings orchestral sounds in the chorus, and the vocals also get a bit more powerful in the chorus and at the end, adding great character and feeling into the song. Overall, it's an absolutely beautiful song.

The title song, "By Surprise," actually reminds me a bit more of pop-country. It's got a bouncy tune, not pure pop, and not pure country, but the roots of both. It's unique in that sense and kind of a neat direction for her to go in. The chorus is one of the catchiest on the album.

"Surrender" is a bit more pop again as it has more computerized sounds in the background, but then it takes a turn in the chorus where heavier sounds are brought in through guitar and stronger vocals. The mix gives the song definite punch and is highly enjoyable. "I Wonder," "Every Day," and "Beautiful Somehow" are also more in this category as they have more up-beat and fun tempos. These are more of the style of the first Joy Williams album, but with pop roots.

"Desperate" is another ballad song. It's quite slow and focuses mainly on vocals and quieter instruments in the background.

"Wish" starts out slower with more focus on acoustic guitar and quiet vocals but as it heads into the chorus, it gets a lot stronger vocally and instrumentally. The chorus is beautiful in vocals and instrument, but also in lyrics as she sings, "I wish I could have been there. My only wish is to see You face to face. I wish I could have been there. Just to see You Jesus, face to face." Overall, it's very powerful and very striking.

"The Love of the Lord Endures" is a great closing to the album as it is also a ballad. The main focus of it is softer vocals and piano and of course, the lyrics share a fantastic message: "The love of the Lord endures. If there's one thing I can be sure it's that the love of the Lord endures."  It's beautiful and touching; a great wind-down to the album.

Fans of Joy's first album may think nothing could really top that, but By Surprise with really take them by surprise. Anyone who was a fan of her previous work will absolutely love this. There are many diverse styles (from alternative to pop to ballads to pop-country) that keep the album from never getting boring. This is a powerful album and so enjoyable in its music and message.

Jessica Heikoop   11/24/2002

Joy Williams has changed her sound a little with the release of her sophomore album By Surprise. This time she has included a some-what Country sound on a number of tracks which could be great for some listeners but a curse for others.

An enjoyable aspect of the album is the fact that the lead singer of Daily Planet, Jesse Butterworth, has helped write a number of tracks. His presence is definitely noticeable and enjoyable both lyrically and musically. However, some of the tracks get bogged down because it sounds like Joy Williams is trying too hard to hit certain notes at times (IE: the title track). While itís not as bad as her debut self titled album, these problems are definitely noticeable and can get rather annoying, which really holds the album back. Musically, the album has a good mix of ballads and upbeat songs with (as previously mentioned) a Country twist. 

Overall, the album is definitely not one for everybody. One thing is for sure though, itís a step up and more enjoyable than her debut release.

Josh McConnell 12/1/2002



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