It’s easy to sell dark on a record. Somehow, minor-key crawlspace arcs are more readily real than songs with smiles behind them.

So are players with sunny dispositions cursed to the phony bin? Well, the answer is a resounding “no” if you’re The Toughcats and you have the cheery healing power of the album “Run to the Mill” to your name.

With snap-crackle-pop suitcase percussion and some of the peppiest banjo licks this side of The Flecktones, “Run to the Mill” is an aural ray of light, squeezing every last drop of bluegrass bounce out of simple, unassuming songs.

Don’t confuse “Run to the Mill” with run of the mill, however. The Toughcats don’t play bluegrass by the book. Instead, they manage to keep the genre gestures honest while still tucking naughty lil’ surprises into each tune.

“Bluegoose” feels like a fowl chase, packing punch with a taut chromatic chorus. The feathery “In the Middle” floats on lush piano, gentle and ancient, as though emanating from an antebellum chapel. The guitar-banjo interplay is flawless throughout, but takes a devilish turn after the shocker scream midway through “Happy Day.”

The Toughcats don’t even sleep on their lyrics, eschewing the bland “You Are My Sunshine” fare for the self-doubt and frustration that smolders under the surface in “Fool.”

Jake Greenlaw, Colin Gulley and Joe Nelson are not here to waste your time. Some bands are hell-bent on proving they belong on a stage, screaming, pushing, indulging internal conflict. To which we say who cares?

The Toughcats do the opposite, applying expert chops — some of the best in town, really — toward a diverse, understated set. But what the band lacks in gaudy spectacle, it makes up for with masterful songwriting and an album immersed in genuine good spirit. Play it when you’re sad.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland and Boston.