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Joy Kills Sorrow - and They Do!

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland ME ~ September 20, 2012 ~

Oct 11, 2012
Kimmy Sophia Brown

I’ve noticed an exponential increase in the quality of musicians I've seen over the past couple of years. Maybe it’s because Portland is near Boston and the famous Berklee School of Music. Whatever it is, between the fingers and ears I’ve witnessed on the Maine stages – well – as my Uncle Bill used to say – “I’ll be dawged.” Whatever that means. But really, the best of the best are outdoing each other as a way of life.

Joy Kills Sorrow was loosely rooted in the bluegrass genre, but they were so much more. I was very impressed by their recent set at One Longfellow Square. Emma Beaton displayed the ability to compete with singing peers of any age, possibly any genre. She had spot-on pitch and wailed like a woman done wrong, or sang softly as a little girl.

The band was comprised of award winning musicians, each one a stand-alone genius in their own right. The musical upshot was dazzling.

Flat-picking champion, Matthew Arcara, looked as if he could play Stonewall Jackson in a civil war movie. He held his guitar up high and tight and played with dignified strength. Jake Joliff, whose beard and hair resembled Wolverine, was a master mandolin player – in fact he was the first recipient of a full-scholarship awarded to a mandolin player at Berklee school of Music. His fingers were like hovering hummingbirds. Wesley Corbett was their adept banjo player extraordinaire, and currently teaches banjo at Berklee.

Their new bass player, Zoe Guigueno, formerly of the Canadian band, Fish and Bird, replaced their former bassist, Bridget Kearney. (Fish and Bird was the opening act for them.) Zoe looked like a cross between Greek singer, Nana Mouskouri and Tina Fey, with pointy glasses, a dark pony tail and a bright smile. The band played well together, and even though this was Zoe’s first gig with them, she participated as if she had always been with them.  She created stunning harmonies with Emma too.

Emma played it straight most of the time, with rather a serious expression, rarely cracking a smile. I kept getting a mental image of her as a shy, quiet child, but then the mood of a song brought out her pugnacious side, and she was an enigma. Her voice held back a lot, somewhat in the style of Aoife O’Donovan, but then sometimes she delivered a kind of Bonnie Raitt heat and power. I admired the fact that her voice was able to sustain its clarity in front of intense and complex accompaniment. Joy Kills Sorrow was a class act, rivaling the very best. Visit their website at

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at
Press photo from the Joy Kills Sorrow website, featuring former bassist, Bridget Kearney

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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