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.

Release Date 01/11/2010 (Distiller Records)

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...