The Young Novelists are either a duo or a six piece full band (more on that later). Traveling to Kansas City from their Toronto home, they were a duo, couple Graydon James and Laura Spink. Graydon plays acoustic guitar, Laura plays various percussion and melodica (at least it looks like the melodicas I found on the Internet after Googling "wind instrument keyboard"), and they share vocals.
Their set was very entertaining, and they are an exceptionally talented young duo. Graydon and Laura combine for very tight, beautiful harmonies, reminding me of the classic CSN sounds. Many of the songs they performed were originals, showing a talent for heart-of-roots-music songwriting. A show highlight, however, was a killer - Killer! - cover of "Jackson", the frenetic song made famous by June Carter and Johnny Cash.
Graydon and Laura had a great rapport with the audience, entertaining us between their songs with stories about their young son, and a recent performance at an elementary school where none of the children knew what a CD was. It's an iPod world, folks.
The best thing about The Young Novelists, though, was the exuberance that shone from them during their set. They play with a natural energy that wraps up an audience. Combine this with their talent as musicians and songwriters, and you have a really great, enjoyable show. They work hard, and they love what they do.
After the show, and after they had stowed their instruments away, I caught a moment with Laura and introduced myself, and welcomed them to Kansas City. And, let me tell you, Laura was so nice! We talked about their stay here in KC at the Folk Alliance conference, both this year and last. Laura talked to me like I was an old friend - what a sweetheart!
So, I left them to finish packing up, and I wandered out to the central merch table, where Young Novelists CDs were for sale. I picked up a copy of their most recent, "made us strangers", their 4th release. Previously under the name "Graydon James and the Young Novelists" they had released an EP, a live album, and a studio album. For "made us strangers", the band name changed to just "The Young Novelists". I then took the CD back down the hall and saw Graydon and Laura signing CDs at the door, so I went back up, got autographs, and chatted with them some more. Graydon wrote a short novel on the CD cover while I was talking to Laura about being traveling musicians while raising a child. I finally left Laura and Graydon to tend to their Folk Alliance business, feeling great about having met such a fine, friendly musical couple.
Then, on to the CD. Popping the CD in the player on my drive back home, I was greeted with a much fuller sound than I was expecting from the the duo that I had just seen. It was when I got home and was able to research The Young Novelists that I found out that in addition to Graydon and Laura as the core duo, they also have an incarnation as a full six piece band. The fuller sound on the album - drum kit, bass, electric guitar, etc. - extended and complemented the music I had heard from the duo earlier in the day. The harmonies were still there, musically expanded with full roots-rock arrangements. Best of all, that exuberance that made their performance so special still shines though on the studio album.
Highlights: well, everything on the album is good. My favorites were the opener "palindrome", "always make the mistake" with Laura singing lead, the harmonies on "hear your voice", the heavier, ear-catching "what lies ahead" featuring some great piano work by Alex Dodd, and the more melancholy-sounding "couldn't be any worse", which includes some beautiful accompanying strings.
So, now we can hope that we hear "Christmas with The Young Novelists" sometime in the near future :-)
The Young Novelists website
The Young Novelists on Facebook
The Young Novelists on Soundcloud
"made us strangers" on Amazon
And, Laura Spink says, The Young Novelists are everywhere on the internet - Twitter, Youtube, Instagram.... check them out and enjoy!