By Paul T. Mueller

There are a lot of bands with a pretty familiar configuration – a couple of guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, maybe a fiddle or a steel guitar. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it’s refreshing to see a band exploring the possibilities of a different instrumental mix. One such is Mystery Loves Company, which played a couple of sets at The Americana in northwest Houston on Friday, September 8. MLC sometimes includes a drummer, but for this gig the lineup comprised one guitar, an electric cello, a bass and a clarinet. That was more than enough to produce richly textured support for the young band’s thoughtful adult pop, which MLC calls “chamber rock.” The sound blends folk and rock with a bit of blues and jazz, with a vocal approach that at times recalls the progressive rock of the ’70s.

Guitarist Carlos Machado and cellist Madeline Herdeman shared vocal duties, sometimes alternating and often harmonizing on lyrics with themes that touched on such themes as spirituality (“If Heaven”), cultural dislocation (“Aliens”), family connections (“Sister When”) and love and loss (“The Silence”). The band also threw in some interesting covers, ranging from the Partridge Family (“I Think I Love You”) to Pearl Jam (“Better Man”) to the Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”) to the Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”), all imaginatively reworked and skillfully played.

Herdeman’s cello and the clarinet of Alauna Rubin carried most of the melodic duties, while Machado’s guitar lent rhythmic support and Jeremy Dudman’s bass underpinned it all with a solid foundation.

Mystery Loves Company’s members are still working day jobs and playing at night and on weekends, so the band’s touring for now seems mostly restricted to Greater Houston and nearby areas. Those within range of a gig may well find attending is worth the effort.