Sparrow and the Workshop – Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 9 May 2013 (4 stars)

The alt.country/rock trio launch latest album Murderopolis with aplomb

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Sparrow and the Workshop – Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 9 May 2013

Photo: Stephanie Gibson

There’s a party atmosphere to tonight’s gig at the Caves, the second of two launch parties for Sparrow and the Workshop’s new album, Murderopolis. Bunting and balloons festoon the stage; a bottle of whisky makes its way round the crowd; and both Sparrow and support act Magic Arm perform covers of dancefloor fillers (the latter opts for a laconic, rootsy take on LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’, while the Giorgio Moroder bassline for ‘I Feel Love’ gives Sparrow bassist Nick Packer a chance to show off his finger-picking fortitude). On the surface, such conviviality might appear to sit at odds with the brooding tone of the album, but the end result is a lively, involving performance that never runs the risk of getting bogged down in doom and gloom.

As ever, frontwoman Jill O’Sullivan is the star attraction – she’s taken steps into more raw, feral territory on Murderopolis, almost yelling the chorus of ‘Fame whore!’ from recent single ‘The Faster You Spin’, but her plaintive, neo-Nashville vocals still shine out on older material like ‘You Got It All’, earning heartfelt applause from the duly impressed audience. The whole set is underpinned by Packer’s powerful, driving basslines and some uber-tight timekeeping from drummer Gregor Donaldson (who also does a nice line measured, complementary harmonies). The sheer talent of the trio could almost be intimidating were it not for O’Sullivan’s chatty between-songs patter and the overall party vibe – by the time the distinctive bassline kicks in for that closing cover, the whole room most definitely feels the love.

Sparrow and the Workshop - You got it all

Sparrow & the Workshop

Alt.folk and rockier interludes from this Glasgow-based trio touting percussion, violin, guitar and Jill O'Sullivan's intoxicating voice.

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