When Sparrow And The Workshop‘s (****) vocalist Jill sings “I’d like to be impossibly obscure” in The Gun, she’s obviously not reckoning with our intentions. Her voice has a strong country twang – being American, it’s not at all put-on – and the rollicking rhythms of the drummer remind me of Sons & Daughters’ driving energy. But there are ballads too, which immediately touch a nerve; in fact every song is immediately striking in some regard, and – almost impossibly – they keep getting stronger. Rip-roaring finale The Devil Song sounds like a steam train crossing the desert: so we call in applause, “woo woo!”, and it’s like we’re announcing an arrival.
Pumajaw (***) have just released their fifth album, Curiosity Box, and appropriately they still seem to be a curiosity around these parts: no-one I talk to beforehand seems to know what to expect. Guitarist John Wills and singer Pinkie MacLure try to weave a new-age atmosphere which only needs clouds of smelly joss-stick smoke to complete the effect. Wills records and loops rhythmic and ambient sequences so he can fingerpick runs on top, and MacLure’s agile vocals tell mystical stories in the tradition of rootsy folk. She has a fantastic voice, and his methodical production method is also impressive, but there’s not much to grab on to for this small crowd of Pumajaw apprentices.