The first time I saw Sparrow and the Workshop, I am pretty sure, was at a Limbo show at the Voodoo Rooms. There was a small buzz surrounding the band at the time. Not the kind that Broken Records were experiencing, just a nice simmering rumour amongst music fans and media that these guys had what it takes to get noticed. I remember the night well because it’s the first time I met Jill O’Sullivan. It’s weird but everytime I speak to Jill, mainly cause she’s from Chicago where Wilco are from and cause of her O’ surname, I think of Jim O’ Rourke. Weird, I know. Anyways, I think when listening to this record the influence of her home country on her songwriting is evident. But we shall come to that later.
I feel like I’m in a pretty fortunate place with this record simply because I never bought, nor have I listened to, their previous 2 EPs. Shame on me! My understanding though is that a number of the songs on this record featured on these EPs, and whilst I know many of the tracks from seeing the guys live (a lot), I don’t have a reference point for comparisons in recording terms. So…this review is me coming at songs with fresh ears, having never heard them recorded in any other way.
And the record does not disappoint in any way whatsoever. I’d have to tag this record as being a slice of dark, luscious alt. country folk pop music. Jill’s vocals have always stunned me when I’ve seen these guys live. I’ve also always loved the interplay between her own US drawl and the dulcet Scottish tones of Gregor Donaldson. I’m glad to say both these things are evident in abundance and to the fore on this record, especially on ‘Devil Song’. (I was going to mention Welsh guitar/bass playing to keep Nick involved, but that makes no sense really does it?). Move along now Euan. Move along. Anyways, I love ‘I Will Break You’ so so much. It may well be on my list of best songs this year come December. This record is packed with gems from opener ‘Into The Wild’ to ‘Mercenary’ and to another of my favourites ‘Last Chance’. This really is a great record. It’s American in flavour for sure but what else would you expect from an American songwriter? We’re still claiming them as our own! This really has made a stressful week great. It really has.
Those murmurings at Limbo, way back when, about this band were true. They do have what it takes. And on the evidence of this record they are going only going to get better and stronger and grab the attention of more and more people. You can check out Sparrow and the Workshop here. Crystals Fall is released on April 19th on Distiller Records. Make sure you get yourself a copy. Enjoy.