The Lucky Few

Equation plays the Chico Women’s Club at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24.

Honing traditional folk sounds on the whetstone of contemporary rock (both mainstream and alternative) is nothing new, unfortunately. Fortunately, however, Devon, England, band Equation manages to take the clichés of such cut-and-match musical combinations and render them almost sharp and brilliant again, especially on this CD.

Kicking off with the syncopated, country-flavored “Not the Man,” singer Kathryn Roberts lets loose her compelling alto. While often compared to Stevie Nicks and even the late Sandy Denny, Roberts’ more obvious vocal influence is Natalie Merchant. The entire band plays perfectly, the various instruments fitting snugly as jigsaw pieces. Especially effective is Seth Lakeman’s violin, as it subtly winds its way around the verses and suddenly arpeggios into full bloom on the refrains. “Picture the Change” almost sounds like an early-'80s solo Pete Townshend outtake before billowing into a pop Celtic chorus. “Autumn Tune” is sufficiently and commercially tuneful enough to gain airplay on so-called adult-contemporary stations. Maybe it has. I wouldn’t know; I don’t listen to those stations. Which brings us to the crux of things: Exactly where does a band like this fit in? Beats me. But they’re just enjoyable enough to warrant additional listening.