Deadbeat Records/Southbound Records
I liked Eb & Sparrow the debut full-length album by, well, Eb & Sparrow. Formed around the singing and songwriting of Ebony Lamb, I wanted to like this band as soon as I first heard them. They made that easy. Creamy, dreamy vocals and a quiet-is-the-new-loud approach both taken, hopefully, from The Cowboy Junkies, the sort of Kiwi twist on Appalachia and Americana that Rosy Tin Teacaddy had (also) been crafting. Just that bit – nicely, sweetly – removed from the worst aspects of the Lyttelton Laboratory For K-Craft Country Music.
But Son/Sun, arriving just a year later, is a giant revelation of a step up – and onward.
This is the sound of a band now fully formed, nailing it. This is the sound of your new favourite band. Forget they live down the road, that’s just a bonus, you can see them more if you like. Here we have trumpets that add to the yearning and mournful balladry (Mighty Wind), shotgun guitar lines that rattle along as if riding on the train tracks (Loaded Gun) and some sun-kissed shimmers of barely-there musical sketches that set up the longing that Lamb delivers, torch-style at times, never over-delivering, never under-promising (I Want You).
Right from the opener, Kimbolton, as the trope of an old Ricky Nelson song is turned on its ear and dragged, Maria McKee-styled, into a particular sonic world we could fairly imagine David Lynch excitedly tweeting about, this is all so new and yet so instantly familiar. It’s a version of country music that has a gothic tonic to it, a Kiwi lilt and some fine and sympathetic playing to render the right shapes.
I like it. I like it a lot. The one-two of I Want You and Mighty Wind is the special sauce in the middle of the album. But there are plenty of magical moments, The Sun reminding, in traces, of the earlier Neko Case work, Mother Mary ghostly and lovely, the closer, Little Hands, a bit of secular gospel, the sort that Rickie Lee Jones might have written. Probably has at some point. Those little pointers, and reminders, are nice. This album is quietly stunning.