I had a chance to review the first album by these guys and I didn't. I can't remember why not, but maybe that was the night I had to wash my hair or stick a fork in my eye, one of the two, and I'm kicking myself now. The hair could have waited and the fork was probably painful and in the end I fell one album behind, something I do not like to do. I found out this way: Along comes Joy Kills Sorrow's new album, Darkness Sure Becomes This City, and I'm thinking, okay,we'll see what these guys have to offer, and Wham! I'm hearing a hybrid of two of my favorite bands, Hem and The Dixie Bee-Liners, with Joy Kills Sorrowful twists and I feel like beating my head against the desk.
The album starts out Hem-like enough, Kill My Sorrow having that melodic, floating Hem sound and feel sans Sally Ellyson's magnificent voice but, surprise of surprises, with a voice to capture the heart as equally in its stead, that of Emma Beaton. Were I not already a huge fan of Hem, Beaton would have won me over in a second, her voice soothing and reassuring, but when you're expecting Ellyson, even a voice as pleasant as Beaton's is a hard sell. To her credit, she does not try to sell it. With an it-is-what-it-is sincerity, Beaton effortlessly glides through each song and from song to song until you completely toss aside comparisons and get lost in the music and that voice. And the music is outstanding.
There is a JKS twist to each and every song on Darkness Sure Becomes This City, so much so that they are genre-elusive. Call them what you will, their music lives in each song and the finest touches of the best of the past few years pass through, the auras of Hem and The Dixie Bee-Liners and Amelia Jay (who are changing their name to Seafare, I hear) hovering for moments here and there but in more of an enhancing rather than a get-in-the-way manner. If you have not checked out those three, might I suggest you do so. In the meantime, here are a few reasons you should pick up Darkness Sure Becomes This City.
One: They live on a plane occupied by the three aforementioned bands, a plane of melody and harmony and musicianship par excellence to which many aspire and few attain. Two: In eleven songs, they take you through a variety of mood and genre-changes, all handled perfectly, which takes that old I've-heard-it-enough factor that kills so many albums out of the picture. Three: The production fits the music to an absolute 'T' and allows the music to ring true. Just one listen to the minimal production on New Shoes takes you to back to the old recordings of the hill country (yet clean, immaculate and modern) and the simplicity (of production and music) of the beautiful "If It's Rainin'" is a fork in the heart. Four: The harmonies are killer, whether on the upbeat or the down low, and exceptional harmonies are always a plus. In this case, they are a huge plus.
Not many bands can do what these guys do. They are bluegrass and country and folk and a whole lot of other styles melted and poured into a huge bowl of good, producing, at more than a few moments, downright exceptional music. This is the kind of album that, if you discover it on your own, play for friends and disown them if they aren't as equally enthused. This is another example of music being more than alive and well, but thriving. On a personal note, thank you, Bridget Kearney for Thinking Of You and Such and Emma Beaton, for You Will Change Me. They are songs for the ages.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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