The Novel Ideas’ bittersweet harmonies make for ‘sad’ songs that lift the soul

The Novel Ideas’ egalitarian arrangements lift melancholy music out of the clouds

The Novel Ideas’ backstory sounds rather old-fashioned: four friends banging around on a song discover a stirring harmony blend. Yet that simplicity feeds the unpretentious appeal of their self-described “sad country folk” songs.

In truth, that tag unfairly suggests the Greater Boston-based quartet’s music is a downer. Melancholy undeniably ripples through the self-titled album they just made with Lord Huron producer Rick Parker and self-released in September, but tracks like the uplifting “I’ll Try” and “Old Ways” are buoyed by rolls of pedal steel, fiddle, and those bittersweet harmonies —which elevate more introspective songs such as “Mountain” and the yearning “Calling You Out,” and showcase the band’s egalitarian dynamic.

The present lineup evolved out of an album made by guitarist/pedal steel player Danny Hoshino and guitarist Daniel Radin, 2012’s “Home,” that also featured bassist James Parkington and Sarah Grella, who was invited onboard to sing harmony and before long was sharing lead vocals at shows and co-writing with Hoshino and Radin. Everyone contributes to arrangements and sings harmony.

As balmy as their melodies are, it comes as small surprise that they grew up listening to left-of-mainstream country (Emmylou Harris) and Southern California pop (Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac). As they sing on “The Blue Between Us,” first heard on “Home” and robustly reprised on the new album, “I miss the folk singers from the days of old/ When a three-chord song could save your soul.”

— Bliss Bowen

The Novel Ideas perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Boulevard Music, 4316 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. $15. Jason Hawk Harris also on the bill. Call (310) 398-2583 or visit thenovelideas.com.

 

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