When the Joy Kills Sorrow disc arrived last year, I didn’t know what to expect. The name conjured up a dark rock band to me. Maybe a Mark Lanegan side project. I was delighted with what I actually heard – charming acoustic music with a stylish singer. However, it was seeing them live that really brought the band’s sound together for me.
Their album is entitled The Unknown Science and there really is a rather unknowable formula to the way that they blend folk, jazz, bluegrass, country, Celtic, pop and other styles to their songs. It’s something like Fairground Attraction (remember that Eddi Reader-fronted band?) meets Nickel Creek. While mandolinist Jacob Jolliff and banjo player Wes Corbett bring twangy elements to the music, they don’t restrict themselves to being bluegrass pickers. Frontwoman Emma Beaton has a soulful jazzy quality to her singing. Like what singer Jessica Havey brought to the Duhks or Aoife O’Donovan with the fellow New England acoustic ensemble Crooked Still, Beaton’s singing helps to elevate the band out of the retro-Americana realm.
The quintet, with also features bassist Bridget Kearney and rhythm guitarist Matt Arcara, performed a thoroughly impressive, if all-too-brief, set that suggests this band has a very promising future ahead of them.