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Sparrow And The Workshop - King Tuts, Glasgow - 23rd May 2011 (Live Review)

Thursday, 26 May 2011 Written by Jonny Rimmer
Sparrow And The Workshop - King Tuts, Glasgow - 23rd May 2011 (Live Review)

Appreciation of a live gig is based on a number of factors, and that invariably includes the mood you’re in. Unfortunately for three-piece Sparrow and the Workshop, my disposition was not at its peak. Because of the high winds throughout Scotland on Monday, my usual 3 hour train journey to Glasgow (about an hour too long anyway!) took a frustrating 8 long hours. I was not a happy camper.

ImageThanks in part to the heroic efforts of a chainsaw-armed engineer, who cut down 17 trees on the way to Queen Street station; I managed to just about arrive at King Tuts in time for psychedelic support act Haight Ashbury, which meant that I sadly missed the opening Scottish act Le Reno Ramps.

I shall restrain from using the word ‘hippy’ (guitarist Scott Reid produced a sitar halfway through) but this minimalist trio had a very mellow feel to their set. Prejudices aside however, the ethereal harmonies of Kirsty Reid and percussionist Jennifer Thompson, their rigorously tuneful approach and tight musicianship certainly won me over.

Sparrow and the Workshop are a slightly different proposition but no less tuneful. Taking as much from Black Sabbath as they do Neutral Milk Hotel, there is a thumping mix of styles that form a unique core sound.

Lead vocalist Jill O’Sullivan, ‘American’ but originally from Belfast, has a strong charisma on stage that is both resounding and humble, and she effortlessly charmed a diverse, but eager crowd. Cat Power or PJ Harvey spring to mind but her soulful vibrato still has a recognisable quality to it.

Welshman Nick Packer was also a strong, anonymous presence on the bass (and various other tools) throughout the night, whilst drummer and resident Scot Gregor Donaldson not only completes the celtic line-up, but manufactures the band’s direction entirely. Both playful and purposeful, Donaldson’s rhythms guided the show in highly dynamic fashion, and he also featured on backing vocals throughout the night.

Admittedly, for the most part, songs from the new album Splitting Dagger carry slightly less weight than, for example, the enthusiastically accepted ‘Devil Song’. However, it was a song from the new record that presented the particular highlight of the night. The stunningly beautiful ‘Soft Sound of Your Voice’ featured violin and backing vocals from Jenny Reid, and the atmosphere immediately changed from congenial to awestruck.

Consequently, the trio definitely earned their encore, despite O’Sullivan nervously exclaiming “we’re pretty much out of songs”. The band somewhat aptly closed by singing a song in regards to winds changing, having delivered well on as turbulent Monday as I’ve ever experienced.

You should definitely find time to see the rewarding Sparrow and the Workshop, especially at a headline show, and I can only see their indie credentials growing based on this performance.

Oh, and I hope somebody bought that rail engineer a pint.

'Spitting Daggers' was released on May 23 on Distiller Records

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