Sunday, 12 December 2010
Sparrow and the Workshop - Black To Red EP (Distiller Records)
Sparrow And The Workshop's Black To Red EP achieves the unlikely feat of sounding both cannily current and effortlessly timeless. Quaint but still gutsy; folk-balladry with a rock n' roll edge: Black To Red is an EP crafted by an artful trio of musicians whose sound is sure to appeal to a broad audience. I don't mean to sound cynical – this EP was most certainly not the work of scheming manufacturers – but Black To Red does tap in to a market that's currently enjoying huge commercial success.
I'm talking about the transatlantic twang of singer Jill O'Sullivan's voice, whose soulfulness belies its youthfulness, and which in its mellower moments, such as on 'Medal Around Your Neck', isn't a million miles away from that of Laura Marling. There's also the off-beat interplay between O'Sullivan's vocals and those of drummer Greg Donaldson, whose soft interjections lend a endearingly unpolished feel to the recording, and remind me of the male-female vocal technique favoured by the likes of The xx. However, I suspect these likenesses are purely coincidental, because this EP has such an organic and authentic sound, you get the feeling that this is the only way their songs could have turned out.
First track 'Black To Red' is something of an anomaly among the other acoustic laments that comprise the EP, with its shouty opening verse that could fool you into thinking this is a punk record. However, the unexpectedly heartfelt chorus contains those traces of melancholy and wistfulness that permeate the other tracks, too, before climbing to an almost hysterical climax that showcases the arresting range of emotion within the band's songwriting. Elsewhere on the record, the band explore a rousing country style on 'Medal Around Your Neck' and a stripped-back, dream-like sound for closing track 'Tired Of This Town'. Overall, this EP demonstrates the versatility and the emotional force of the frequently misappropriated genre that is folk. Charming, intelligent and captivating, the EP hopefully augurs a bright future for Sparrow And The Workshop.
Words: Tegan Rogers