Joy Kills Sorrow album review, ‘Wide Awake’


Joy Kills Sorrow will be performing in the Washington, DC area. (Shervin Lainez)
September 5, 2013
JOY KILLS SORROW
“Wide Awake”

Kindred spirits: Crooked Still, Uncle Earl, Wailin’ Jennys

Show: Friday at Jammin’ Java. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-255-1566. www.jamminjava.com. $12 in advance,
$15 at the door.

When Bridget Kearney left the terrific string band Joy Kills Sorrow last fall, she sent an e-mail praising her former bandmates and declaring, “Fear not: the sorrow killing will continue.” So it does on the Boston-based quintet’s new album, “Wide Awake,” which boasts a beefed-up bottom thanks to the muscular bowing of Zoe Guigueno, Kearney’s replacement on the upright bass.

Producer Dan Cardinal (Low Anthem’s engineer) takes advantage of Guigueno’s strong, low-end playing and her sweet harmony singing to create a delightful acoustic version of Postal Service’s 2003 indie-rock hit, “Such Great Heights.” On the new arrangement, Wes Corbett’s percussive banjo takes the place of the snare drum; Jacob Jolliff’s mandolin takes the place of the beeping synth and Emma Beaton’s lead vocal nails the pop hook while bringing a hillbilly warmth to the lyrics.

A similar mix of old and new can be heard on the album’s six originals—two by Beaton, two by Kearney, one by Corbett and one by friend-of-the-band Seth Hendricks. A melancholy strain runs through Beaton’s self-questioning on “Gold in the Deep” and through Kearney’s dialogue with a soldier on “Enlistee,” but there’s joy enough in the virtuoso bluegrass picking and the three-part vocal harmonies to murder any mournfulness.

Geoffrey Himes

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