Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In
Joy Kills Sorrow is the perfect band for that unhappy guy I met outside a show last week muttering “Roots, roots, roots!” He was bored to tears with the unending stream of young groups with acoustic guitars and harmonies. But if the current folk/roots/Americana scene is a river full of similar bands floating by with just their heads above water, Joy Kills Sorrow has brilliantly fashioned itself an intricate and inviting boat from the same old sticks and leaves that everyone has access to. They stand out.
The band is Emma Beaton on vocals, Jacob Jolliff on mandolin, Wes Corbett on banjo, Matt Arcara on guitar and Zoe Guigueno on upright bass — all typical instruments, but even in this sci-fi future year of 2013, where music often looks backward to tradition or nostalgia, the Joy Kills Sorrow musicians do something new with their simple acoustic instruments, building song arrangements that have cinematic scope along with the exciting immediacy of a band busking on the sidewalk.
The band released a new EP earlier this summer called “Wide Awake” (on the Signature sounds label) and it’s glorious to hear how it takes typical rootsy moves and turns them on their ho-hum heads. Every Americana group has its capital-B “bluesy” song, for example, but Joy Kills Sorrow’s “Working For the Devil” puts fire in those flatted notes with Beaton bursting the microphone and Guigueno snapping back her bass strings. The chorus leads into a mental mandolin solo from Jolliff, the wild tireless notes sounding like a possessed bird battering at a window.
In a lesser band’s hands, “Get Along” could be a gentle swinging tune about a breakup, but the instruments keep shifting accents and circular melodies under Beaton’s emotional delivery, building up an obsessive, powerful and beautiful mood, with Jolliff nearly stealing the show again with a great solo and Guigueno using her bass part to expertly control the tension.
Joy Kills Sorrow has been called a string band and “virtuoso art folkies” — whatever you call them, the show is very recommended. See the quintet at the Iron Horse in Northampton on Sunday at 7 p.m. Starting off the night will be Darlingside (another creative group that has its own way of playing with “string band” norms).
Alottle, Azwan, Reverend Dan and Clear Spots make up the quirky quadruple bill at Flywheel in Easthampton Friday at 8 p.m.
Longtime local blues vocalist Janet Ryan and her band Straight Up return to the Arts Block in Greenfield Friday at 8 p.m.
Blues guitarist/vocalist Wildcat O’Halloran and his band headline a benefit concert for the Western Massachusetts Musicians Emergency Fund at the Harp in Amherst Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Also scheduled to appear are Sarah Halloran, Caitlyn Squires, Wally Greaney and more.
On Saturday, Stephen Desaulniers and Tom Shea (of the Scud Mountain Boys and the Ray Mason Band) play rare solo sets at 7 p.m., followed by the surfin’ and twangin’ Bamboo Steamers at 8 p.m. and finally the Silvertone pop sounds of the Ray Mason Band at 9:30 p.m., at the Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton.
Boston singer-songwriter Annalise Emerick just set sail on a 25-date tour from New England down to Tennessee. She takes the stage at the Thirsty Mind in South Hadley Saturday at 7 p.m.
Freedy Johnston fans take note! The NYC/Madison-based singer-songwriter — who toured with members of local faves Winterpills earlier this year — is nearly finished with his long-awaited new album (“Neon Repairman”), and though he has no truly local show planned anytime soon, one can make the not-too-bad drive to see Freedy play solo at the homey Outer Space in Hamden, Conn., Thursday at 8 p.m. Also on the bill are Brian Dolzani, Shellye Valauskas and Dean Falcone.