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Massachusetts country folk quartet, The Novel Ideas possess a refreshing approach, as the first half of the self-titled album, The Novel Ideas vies between slow moving ballads to thrusting compositions.
On utilising additional fiddle (Eva Walsh), organ, piano (John Waynelovich) and percussion, drums (Elena Bonomo) The Novel Ideas provide the listener with a sound of greater width than might have been provided by band members; Sarah Grella (vocals), Danny Hoshino (guitar, pedal steel, vocals), James Parkington (bass, vocals) and Daniel Radin (guitar, vocals).
The songs, are well- written, some contain nice hooks, some of real quality as underlined by the wondrous “I’ll Try”; as tasty fiddle, guitar and organ escort it along. Plus one of the band’s greatest strengths, harmony vocals to a high level. It isn’t an isolated case of brilliance for Grella sings like an angel on probing ode “Old Ways”; peppered with pedal steel the tune bounces along in wonderful fashion as she sings ‘every one in the front were singing, and how the sweet melody wrapped around her; and of how she is trying to be a good person but (just) trying is not enough. Slowing it down, considerably, “Broken Glass” enjoys a wistful feel as emotions and the past reflected upon, and with the mellow “Lost On the Road” it has a good partner. Only here the lead vocalist is one again Grella.
Slow ballads from then on in tend to be the order of the day, with those of a quicker more uplifting tempo a rarity. The remainder of the album is nice enough without hitting any home runs, the melancholy “Calling You Out” (aided by organ and fiddle, and harmony vocals) shuffles home quite nicely. While it doesn’t pull up the tracks, albeit a good song it suffers due to the predictable groove of those immediately prior.
Final track “I Was Not Around” suffers in the same fashion; because it is a beautiful enough piece, Grella’s lead vocals, piano, pedal steel and other well-balanced playing ensures the track is an excellent listen. Shame it follows a run of unimaginative (as in similar tempo) songs.
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