The Young Novelists, either a vibrant six-member folk/roots rock band or a mesmerizing acoustic duo featuring husband and wife Graydon James and Laura Spink (It depends on when and where you see them) come to Phoenicia by way of Toronto. The full group initially performed under the name Graydon James & The Young Novelists, but over time as James’s wife Laura became integral to the creative process, the couple began performing and touring as a duo, also, and the more succinct name, The Young Novelists, was born.
When Graydon and Laura perform now on their own, they sometimes refer to themselves as The Young Novelists – The Duo. In part due to the high cost of touring as a full band, United States audiences have, so far, only had the pleasure of seeing the Young Novelists perform as a couple. They consistently wow their audience with that act, as they did at the 2015 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference during a highly coveted formal showcase performance. It’s as if we were discovering Bruce Springsteen as an acoustic act first, not realizing that he also played with the E Street Band.
The Young Novelists will play Phoenicia as a duo, and, in that format, Sonicbids has this to say of them, “Simon & Garfunkel meets Johnny and June; this Canadian folk-roots duo is known for their deft songwriting, beautiful harmonies, and poignant ballads.”
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) Radio says of the Young Novelists “…the harmonies are spot-on, they just don’t falter” while the Toronto Star says “For fans of Blue Rodeo, The Band, and pre-weirdness Wilco, here are three last words: Step right up.”
2015 was a big year for The Young Novelists. In addition to being recognized as New/Emerging Artist of the year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, they won the Grassy Hill Songwriting Competition at the Connecticut Folk Festival, and Graydon received the Ontario Art Council’s Colleen Peterson Songwriting award for his song “Couldn’t Be Any Worse,” where the Jury noted “‘Couldn’t Be Any Worse’ is a completely perfect song… We wanted to listen to it again and again!” As a published author with one novel, The Mall of Small Frustrations, to his name and two others in the works, Graydon James’s words do carry a weight and depth that demand repeat listens, with lyrics that are unabashedly poetic, in thoughtful, untortured ways that lend themselves perfectly to song.
In a 2013 interview Graydon confessed, “I grew up listening to Crosby Stills & Nash and the Eagles, so those influences end up showing through in the songs I write. I realize it’s not necessarily cool to like the Eagles but I just can’t seem to escape my influences.” Though the two now live in quintessentially urban Toronto, James and Spink’s music harkens back to James’s roots in small-town Verona, Ontario, a community of 1,500. “There’s a lot of story-based songs in folk, and I like to write those kinds of songs,” Graydon explains.
Relying on their gorgeous harmonies and deft songwriting, Graydon and Laura as a duo captivate their audiences with stripped down arrangements of the full band’s barnstorming songs and heartbreaking ballads. James is on vocals and guitar, while Spink sings and runs percussion, including a unique and haunting combination of a cello bow played against a glockenspiel. Hearing them both in the warm confines of the Empire State Railway Museum promises to be an exquisite acoustic evening.