Ooh, I like a good premise, and that's what The Young Novelists have given us on their third album, In City & Country. As opposed to the dreaded concept album, which tries and usually fails to deliver a cohesive story line, an album with a good premise is one that gives you several songs (although not necessarily all of them) based around one idea. Here, literate folkies Graydon James and Laura Spink look at small towns vs. big cities, getting out into the country from their Toronto homes. This isn't some loaded idea of city kids getting in touch with nature though; writer James is a professed farm boy who loves small towns (and covered bridges, he stuck one on the group's last album cover). But the couple love the city too, and here are looking at the magic in each, while keeping mind that city people generally feel there's nothing to do in a smaller place, while rural fans complain about the soulless nature of metros and suburbia.
It's fun to follow that thread, hearing lines like "Even the cities are calling out," from the title cut. In Two Of A Kind, you can hear them describe the town of Goderich, ON, as they relate the story of a love triangle dilemma. What's even more cool about the premise is that they actually went to several places to do research on events, the geography, and to soak up the local attitude. Of course, you don't need to follow any of this, you can just enjoy the performances. I love the harmonies from the duo on each song, not just saved for choruses but often heard through much or most of a track. It's folk-rock, closer to calm for the most part, but they do get in your face at times, Come Round Again a sharp guitar-drums rocker, still with those twin lead vocals though. Lots of the songs have clear '60's pop harmony influences, and I'd compare some of them to the wistful, baroque quality of middle-period Byrds cuts such as Goin' Back and Wasn't Born To Follow.