They may be based in Scotland but this band actually comprise of a Scotsman, Welshman and a Chicagoan girl and as such this Transatlantic mix can help to explain their neat hybrid of sound: one that is defined by Celtic jigs and reels shrouded in moody reverb and atmospheric drums, chocolaty vocals and tinges of Americana.
Releasing their debut back in April; Sparrow and the Workshop already possessed a decidedly accomplished sound, and the choice to build the LP from the reworked and remastered tracks from two previous EPs, fleshing them out to perfection, certainly aides the success of Crystal Falls, the reception of which has shocked even the band itself.
Like many artists of late, Timber Timbre to name but one, who encapsulate multiple eras of music in one succinct album, Sparrow and the Workshop too give nods to music from the ’60s up to the present day. They’ve been compared to the Pixies and too, though seemingly of poor, ill-informed judgement, to the Ting Tings, while vocally Jill O’Sullivan who grew up listening to traditional folk music, before moving to Chicago and immersing herself in the British music scene from across the Atlantic, sounds just as impassioned as Neko Case; with that particular lilt to her voice that draws you in with each listen.
As a modern folk-rock outfit there is a somewhat unusual loudness and edge to their tracks, coupled with vocals which often betray their progression. On “I Will Break You” the lyrics and voice projecting them cut deep enough to imply a track that can stand alone with little or no accompaniment, but seemingly from nowhere the band meets the heights of O’Sullivan’s vocal prowess exquisitely – the vocals never failing to match and ‘wow’ their instrumental counterparts each time.
Theatrical and dramatic, Nick Packer’s guitar is employed to be at one at the same time introverted yet absrasive, pensive and loud and he interchanges within songs in such a disjointed way that you can’t help listening for the next hurdle of surprise. Lyrically the trio draw heavily upon the natural, or use this as a backdrop to present a story or situation, mood or emotion. Elements of courtship turn animalistic in “Into the Wild” ‘I can’t help but think you are just a fox and I’m a hare’ while the conversational tone of Packer and O’Sullivan’s vocals in “Swam With Sharks” removes the threat of such an environment with lyrics like ‘saw each others faces without fear of being hurt.’
Swam With Sharks
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Whether combining the artful and subtle pitter-pattering of drums in “The Gun” or the countrified wail of a fiddle in proceeding track “Broken Heart, Broken Home”, which begins liltingly before galloping away by the chorus; Crystal Falls is a Western adrenaline rush of confidence and emotion, the success of which no doubt lies, and will continue to lie, in the timeless sustainability of its narratives and polished production.
Broken Heart, Broken Home
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Buy CD from Amazon: Crystals Fall