Sparrow and the Workshop – Black to Red EP

Release Date 01/11/2010 (Distiller Records)

By Chris Gilliver

Harking back to the folk and folk rock of the late 60s, there is something simultaneously retrogressive and gloriously refreshing about Sparrow and the Workshop. Belfast-born, Chicago-raised Jill O’Sullivan enunciates like Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick on the surf rock/Pixies riffing of ‘Black to Red’, and Sandy Denny on the reverberating tones of ‘Medal Around Your Neck’ and ‘Tired of this Town’, while drummer Greg Donaldson’s backing vocals slide seamlessly behind. Sparrow and the Workshop’s greatest strength lies in the interplay between these two people, and they know it. O’Sullivan is a powerhouse on Black to Red, and a delicately crooning genius on ‘Tired of this Town’. Her adaptability gives Sparrow and the Workshop a poisoned tipped bullet in their gun’s chamber.

 

In fact, the more they strip back and turn down every other instrument, the greater the result. Few bands know, let alone exploit, the fact that less is often more. SATW’s acceptance of this technique means that they are already far ahead of many of their contemporaries. Still, ‘Medal Around Your Neck’ and ‘Tired of this Town’ play like Fleet Foxes and First Aid Kit album tracks respectively. There are other acts out there doing this type of Americana to greater effect, but no one does it with such impressive versatility.

 


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