Some people prefer pop music that behaves like math: once a few familiar variables have been determined—female vocals or male? Acoustic guitar or electric? — the end result should be easy to predict, and always sound the same.

That’s not the Joy Kills Sorrow method. This Boston-based string band favours a more unpredictable approach relying on musical chemistry and improvisation. “We like experimenting and stretching boundaries,” explains guitarist Matthew Arcara, an acoustic player gaining a name for himself as both an up-and-coming guitar slinger and luthier.

Joy Kills Sorrow have become favourites on bluegrass circuit, their emphasis on writing arrangements transcending narrow genres allows them to reach wider audiences.

Emma Beaton‘s haunting vocals and the ensemble’s rootsy variation on Americana is just as apt to appeal to fans of Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes as committed Stanley Brothers enthusiasts. “It’s not that we think traditional music needs improving,” Arcara clarifies. “This is just how we happen to play it.”

Joy Kills Sorrow brings together an eclectic mix of musicians who each have classical and/or jazz conservatory training, though collectively, they ambitiously utilize their years of study to hone a new acoustic territory yet discovered by many of today’s top artists. It’s an amalgamation of lamenting music of the heartland, singular stories of heartache and laughter, beautiful string arrangements, and five musicians who grew up listening to indie-rock, jazz, and pop music that churn out impressive tunes with an incredibly contemporary sensibility.

Singer Emma Beaton, who was nominated for “Traditional Vocalist of the Year” at the Canadian Folk Music Awards 2010 and won “Young Performer of the Year” at the age of 18 at the Canadian Folk Music Awards 2008, has captivated critics and fans alike.

And while Joy Kills Sorrow makes it sound as easy as 1-2-3, this isn’t music as math; it takes chemistry, trial-and-error, and unspecified quantities of that little something extra to make Joy Kills Sorrow