The Novel Ideas – The Novel Ideas
Self Released – 2017
Massachusetts folk-country quartet, The Novel Ideas, features Sarah Grella on vocals alongside guitarists Danny Hoshino and Daniel Radin, and bassist James Parkington. Their self-titled third album has a highly attractive Americana sound dealing with themes of love and loss.
Grella takes lead on the opener, I’m Not Waiting, a yearningly aching song about the fear of commitment as she sings how she “grew up always thinking that love, it is measured in miles.”
Bringing in Eva Walsh on fiddle with John Waynelovich providing organ, the slow-paced I’ll Try turns the grainy nasal vocal spotlight on one of the guys (the credits don’t say who wrote or sang on what) sings about trying to get their life back on track, Grella returning for the jaunty Old Ways, Hoshino on pedal steel, with the narrator’s somewhat fatalistic view of love and relationships (“You don’t need me, I’ll just disappoint you. Yeah I’m sure you’ll be fine on your own”).
They have a very strong sense of melody, making effective use of catchy chord structures, hooks and choruses, whether on the slow sad waltzing Lost On The Road, the pedal-steel bolstered mid-tempo alt-country The Blue Between Us (basically a love song about missing their home state) or the warm fingerpicked Farm where the bouncy fiddle-led tune is offset by lyrics about the collapse of a marriage alongside the farm’s failure.
Indeed there’s a definite darkness and melancholy to some of these, particularly the duetted Dena which would seem to be about the emotional fallout after the loss of a child and the five minute soulful closer I Was Not Around (a sort of cross between Emmylou and Jackson) as Grella sings “these words won’t heal. Let your tears fall to the ground. You asked me to save you from yourself, but I was not around.”
Even so, there’s still hope here, no more so though on the uplifting, full-sounding salvation through love-themed Mountain with its soaring chorus “never have I been so tired as when I came down off the mountainside and though my legs they gave way by the end of the day, oh I still found my way back down.”
There’s not actually any novel ideas about what they do, but they make the familiar hugely rewarding listening.