Sparrow And The Workshop – Crystal Falls (Distiller)

May 9, 2010 by  

We all know that folk music has been incredibly resurgent of late and whether this has been for better or worse is clearly debatable, but that is not what I’m getting at. When you mention Sparrow and The Workshop, many may simply think ‘here we go again another folk act to add to the Marling/Whale/Mumford… stable’, but they are so wrong.

We first heard of Sparrow and The Workshop exactly a year ago and was so taken aback by their original take on all things twiddly and acoustic we’ve been salivating at the prospect of this d?but full length ever since. The Glaswegian act’s d?but single ‘Devil Song’ seem to rise up out of the nu-folk mediocrity and slap us round the ears with its disparate mix of eerie Nancy Sinatra meets Nico vocals and Spaghetti Western theme music.

The album continues this trend perfectly. Throughout Jill O?Sullivan’s angelic yet sinister vocals spin haunting narratives over a strangely forward thinking mix of retro country and trad folk. Sounds impossible doesn’t it. But if you take the dramatic ‘Mercenary’ for example, the song’s relatively hushed and simple beginning is quickly shaken by the onslaught of visceral guitars, before Jill’s vocal’s ascend without warning, adding an abundance of drama and tension. These moments of exploration are balanced out by the more traditional influences, giving the album the perfect mix of heartfelt balladry and po-faced folk noir.

With Crystal Falls, Sparrow and The Workshop has produced an a original take on a genre which all too often reverts to type and a truly remarkable album.