Wellington band Eb and Sparrow peer into some dark corners but also find places of comfort and hope on their third album. Nick Bollinger has a listen.
There’s a school of thought that says you should open an album with your biggest brightest tune, but that’s evidently not a school Eb and Sparrow subscribe to. This Wellington band have just released their third album and it literally begins with a dirge.
The song is, in fact, titled ‘Death’, and with its solemn tempo and mournful horns the mood is that of a funeral march, while Ebony Lamb’s vocal has all the haunting qualities of an Irish lament.
It’s not all as downbeat as this. Still it’s an indication that dark and brooding atmospheres are where we are going to be spending some time.
The album has the evocative title Seeing Things, and Lamb’s songs do come across a bit like reports of a mystic’s visions; things glimpsed that others may have missed. She offers hints of a story – an Indian born in a storm, a pact with God, or the deathly procession of that opening song – but these are really mood pieces more than narratives. And those moods are painted as much by the instruments in her band - of which her voice is one – as any of the words she’s singing. The effect is as controlled as it is impressionistic.
Eb and Sparrow tend to be categorised as an alt-country band and there are certainly country traces in Lamb’s melodies and in a line-up that favours twanged guitars and sweeps of lap steel. But with this album more than ever, they are more like the kind of country band you would find in a barroom scene if David Lynch set a film in the American South.
In a great track like ‘Working’, Lamb rises out of the mix like some ghost of Patsy Cline; a lost B-side on a haunted jukebox. Yet in those moments where the tempo picks up, the mood remains just as restless and lonesome.
Eb and Sparrow’s Seeing Things is a beautifully made, richly atmospheric record. The playing is subtle and understated, and has been captured and rendered to something close to perfection by producer and engineer Brett Stanton.
If it peers into some dark corners and delivers some spooky moods, it ends on an unexpectedly comforting note. ‘My Old House’ is the final song and in this one – which really is a kind of country song - Ebony Lamb marks out a place of hope and safety in the middle of life’s storms.
Seeing Things is available on Southbound