Sunday, 1 February 2009

Sparrow & The Workshop: They've Got It All

feature for the skinny

Sparrow & The Workshop only formed a year ago, have never released a record, and their achievements so far have been modest, but you need to know about them. If only they'd ever toured, I'd have the T-shirt and a month off work to follow them. But that's for the future, because I'm in real danger of becoming a super-fan, and you are too.

If it's tempting to demarcate singer and songwriter Jill O'Sullivan as the 'Sparrow', and the rhythm section as 'The Workshop', that's not far from the truth, though they're very much a team. Jill used to perform solo as Dead Sparrow, but she benefits hugely from the creative input provided by drummer, Gregor, who also sings, and of bassist Nick. They found each other through Gumtree after Chicagoan Jill and Welshman Nick moved to Glasgow from London: serendipity saw them move into Gregor's girlfriend's flat, and the rest is history. But it's not, yet, they haven't actually achieved anything. This is it: they've had sessions with Vic Galloway and Edinburgh blogger Song By Toad, they've supported British Sea Power, and they've had discussions with "one or two" labels. Few others have cottoned on - now is a good time.

Your first stop to Sparrow super-fandom is the track which best shows off all their talents: The Devil Song. Beginning with an ominous duet, warning of doom like a ghost story told by a desert campfire, Gregor's galloping rhythm gives the song a cinematic transition, away from the story-tellers and into the story, harmonised over Nick's spaghetti western bassline. "I have to talk to frustrated people at my work, and some of them can be really mean and bitter," says Jill, "so I wanted to know how to be like that, how to get rid of your conscience and your heart so you can just be cruel without feeling bad about it." So that's what she means when the music grinds to a halt and the spotlight lands on her breath-stopping wail: "Take away my heart so I can be free!" It's a stunning climax, especially live where Gregor's drums sound more like a runaway train than a dashing horse.

But Sparrow & The Workshop's talents don't end there. The Last Chance is another tale with Southern Gothic themes, in which Jill's bittersweet twang flies dramatically over Gregor's rollicking, flaring rhythms. Try The Gun too, which wears a lulling acoustic melody like a mask, hiding a bleak tale of domestic abuse; and then there's Swam Like Sharks' impassioned folk lament, or You Got It All's soulful defiance.

"We’re working on an EP right now," offers Jill. "We’ve recorded about ten songs and we're still choosing," and it's apparently slated for "a spring release". But don't wait that long – go watch them live first. See the ones standing at the front, mindlessly clapping out of time, with glazed-over eyes and fixed dumb grins? That'll be us, the super-fans. Join the club.

So what're you waiting for?

First stop, their MySpace

also, their Song, By Toad session here (videos, 10 minutes)

and their fabulous Vic Galloway radio session here (audio, 20 minutes)

1 comment:

nick said...

Good feature Ally, like the super-fan angle. Will definitely have a listen and see if there's any space in the fan club.