Deadbeat/Southbound/Slow Boat Records
Much as I loved Sun/Son – and I really did (click there to read/re-read the review) the thing I really love about Eb & Sparrow is this subtle upward trajectory. Each new album surpasses the previous effort. This is how it should be with your new favourite bands. You get hooked. You ride along with the latest release, you dig back to any previous efforts in the catalogue and enjoy those too, appreciating the step-up to the latest of course. And then – wham! – a new album that builds on the previous effort.
And that’s exactly it for Seeing Things – here we still have Ebony Lamb’s voice, all Patsy Cline and Cowboy Junkies, front and centre. We have her song as aural paintings, postcards, prose-poems. But, musically, the band is bigger, better, sharper, darker. This is country-noir (The Timbers) and there’s more twang and sting (Settle).
Horns and strings cling to the songs here, to further embolden them – Lamb sings “Everybody knows” in a near sonorous-drone with mournful trombone and shimmering guitar creating the funereal lurch. Brushed drums enter and we’re in. This is the album opener. It’s downbeat, forlorn, and yet there’s hope, there’s heart, there’s something powerful in this yearning.
To The West evokes classic jukebox country-soul, Mt. Vic is somewhere towards Nadia Reid’s more recent work, and Working has the band working up a wonderful countrypolitan tears-in-the-beers balladry feel. These torch songs have an added spark thanks to the glorious, subtle string arrangements and playing of Anita Clark (aka Motte) and smart engineering, production and tricks (Ben Edwards, Ben Delany, Chris Winter, Brett Stanton).
But also this is a band played-in now. They’ve toured and recorded for years, the line-up is solidified, newest addition is drummer Justin Barr who pats down beautifully on songs like Prodigal, his brush-work the perfect texture.
Closing track, My Old House, features a lovely fiddle line (Clark) and suggests there’s more than one great writer in the band – guitarist Gram Antler contributing a Neil Young-like weepy-wooze of a ballad which, of course, Lamb nails; her voice her the creamy-dreamy soft-centre. The heart.
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