With Nickel Creek abdicating their crown, the Bluegrass/Americana scene has been awaiting the rise of the next big group of young turks to bring something fresh to the genre. Joy Kills Sorrow certainly seems to have the potential to be that group.
The band coalesced out of the strong and competitive Boston Folk scene six years ago, founded by guitarist Matthew Arcara and a handful of like-minded friends as a traditional instrumental Bluegrass outfit. But a desire to shake things up led them to add vocals. After the band’s eponymous debut in 2007, JKS’s line-up began to change significantly, until they arrived at the current cast — Arcara (the only remaining founding member), banjoist Wesley Corbett, mandolinist Jacob Jolliff, bassist/songwriter Bridget Kearney and vocalist Emma Beaton, all of whom bring unique and diverse experiences beyond the typical Bluegrass blueprint.
Joy Kills Sorrow’s two releases for Signature Sounds, last year’s Darkness Sure Becomes This City and this week’s This Unknown Science, have both shown the band’s success at folding elements of Rock, Jazz and Pop into a Bluegrass sound, crafting a contemporary hybrid that honors the past and charges boldly into the future. Kearney’s ability to write a Bluegrass song that is decidedly not Bluegrass is a huge part of that success, as is the entire band’s talent for intricate and beautiful arrangements that transcend genre formulas. Beaton’s contribution of a voice that offers the powerful vulnerability of Suzanne Vega further sets JKS apart from the standard Bluegrass crowd.
Even among innovators like Alison Krauss and Union Station and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Joy Kills Sorrow has carved out an incredibly singular niche for themselves, assuring that its audience will never be comprised solely of hardcore Bluegrass enthusiasts, but will instead be as expansive and inclusive as the incredible music they deliver.
JOY KILLS SORROW plays Molly Malone's in Covington Saturday, Sept. 17. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue detailshere .