Was It You video from Joy Kills Sorrow

Joy Kills SorrowClose observers of the acoustic music scene will have noted growth this past few years in a fairly new offshoot of bluegrass music. So new that it doesn’t yet have its own subgeneric classification.

Unlike the jam grass scene, its practitioners tend to hew closely to the bluegrass ensemble format, without percussion or wind instruments. They tend to write and perform highly melodic music, using the instruments in the same rhythmic roles they would have in bluegrass, but with a structure, harmony and lyrics more in keeping with modern pop or alt/pop styles.

To my eye (and ear) this new dimension opened up at roughly the same time with Crooked Still and Punch Brothers, and continues with newer groups like Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, Chasing Blue, and Finders & Youngberg (whose new album we will review later this week), among others.

Perhaps the prime exemplar would be Joy Kills Sorrow, loosely based in Boston, consisting of Wes Corbett on banjo, Matt Arcara on guitar, Jacob Joliff on mandolin, Zoe Guigueno on bass, and fronted by vocalist Emma Beaton. Their latest music video was released last week, featuring the opening track of their current Wide Awake album, Was It You.

Bluegrass purists will rightly assert that “it’s not bluegrass,” to which the obvious rejoinder would be, “duh.” But anyone interested in where the use of Mr. Monroe’s ensemble form is headed in the future would be wise to keep an eye on this movement, and this fine band.


Find out more about Joy Kills Sorrow by visiting them online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.