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With an edge that harks back to old time jazz and blues singers’ Ebony Lamb of Eb & Sparrow has led her band of talented men on a musical journey that began in 2010. Eb & Sparrow is a genre-defying, five-piece folk band that has been gaining attention across the country from city bars to folk clubs, festivals to house concerts. Lamb has worked tirelessly at her craft with a band that has grown organically around her. Lap-steel, trumpet and electric guitars swirl colourfully above solid and sensitive rhythm playing, moving effortlessly between a country shuffle, a Tex-Mex croon, and a hazy hooning workout. They have supported Rodriguez, Pokey LaFarge, Beth Orton, Wagons, Delaney Davidson & Marlon Williams, The Warratahs, Anika Moa, Tami Neilson, and Aldous Harding.
Ebony Lamb – Song writer, lead vocals, guitar
Bryn Heveldt – Lapsteel, guitar, vocals
Nick Brown – Drums, vocals
Jason Johnson – Bass, guitar, vocals
Chris Winter – Brass, bass, guitar, vocals
Fresh Talent: Eb & Sparrow – NZ Musician, June/July, 2013 (Vol:17, No:7)
Introducing: Eb and Sparrow
Eb & Sparrow’s debut 2014 album was self-titled, self-released and self-assured. The 10 song collection was built on – but far exceeds – their three preceding EPs as it takes the band’s paradoxically woven nature to new heights. These songs are proudly soaring and grounded, dark and bright, dreamy and direct, country and Spanish, 1850s and 1950s, delicate and propulsive, all the while lamenting and laughing.
Eb & Sparrow was recorded by award-winning Lyttelton producer and sound genius Ben Edwards (The Eastern, Delaney Davidson & Marlon Williams, Doprah, The Tiny Lies, Aldous Harding, The Unfaithful Ways, Luckless) at The Sitting Room studios.
Eb & Sparrow – Wearing All Those Clothes – NZ Musician, October/November, 2014 (Vol:18, No:6)
NZ Live, 2014 – Eb & Sparrow
“In these post-modem times, it’s easy to be suspicious of throwback folk music with vaudeville era aesthetics. Eb & Sparrow suggest not a yearning for an imagined brighter past, but a desire to participate in a simpler, more humanistic way of life.” – Martyn Pepperell, Vanguard Red Magazine.
“EB & SPARROW: SHINING LIGHT – Ebony Lamb on Men, Music & Life – TIM GRUAR
I‘TS SPRING SO I‘TS TIME FOR LAMB. EBONY LAMB, THAT IS, OF AMERICANA/ROOTS GROUP EB & SPARROW. OUR ROVING WELLINGTON IIOUND DOG ‘I’IM GRUAR TRACKED HER FOR THE LOWDOWN.
Continuing their haunting journey into the depths of Americana, folk and sweet gloaming, Wellington based Eb & Sparrow return this month with a new album, Son/ Son. I met up with composer/ singer Ebony Lamb at the appropriately named Home café in the National Library. It’s a place surrounded by heritage, perched on the site of an ancient river that ﬂows directly into the harbour. The connection to nature, the land and to people is very strong here. And so is this new work. The striking, upbeat, cartoon-like cover by Grimoire is a bright juxtaposition to Lamb‘s often-brooding vocals and her bands uniquely understated but very catchy melodies. The album starts with memories of small town New Zealand – ‘Kimbolton‘ – where Lamb’s family chose to spend the Christmas holidays. “It’s the Rhododendron capital of the Country. It‘s really an old lady ﬂower, sort of a reminder of past times, when these little towns used to be destinations. We spent the summer down by the local river, and in hammocks and running on the grass – even sheep in the back garden!” It’s the perfect Kiwi summer – as portrayed through a Vaseline- smeared lens of golden light and happy memories. The last time we talked Lamb told me about her endless car trips back and forth to the Bay of Plenty to visit her sick father. Lamb was raised by her solo Dad and they had a strong connection, which is not only evident when she speaks but in her songs, too. ‘I Want You’ features the ominous lines, ‘I went through my father’s things. He passed away three years ago. He was a huge inﬂuence on me, growing up. His music collection and his collection of philosophy books. Such a great wealth.’ The song, she tells me, is more than just about her father, it‘s about the wanting of a man. Strong love, safe love. holding tight, comforting. In a different way, the song ‘Coward Son’ is Lamb’s challenge to love a man for who he is, and for that man to be proud of himself, to be strong. ‘’I‘m saying you don’t have to be frightened. You don’t have to be a soldier. We should accept men for who they are, not change them into something they aren‘t. And that goes for men who are a bit dark, difficult, as well.” Men are prominent in Lamb’s life. Her band features some of the country’s most talented and experienced players. Chris Winter infuses a delicious, soulful, Latin trumpet, like Calexico, into many of the songs – when he’s not playing guitar or bass, that is. He also adds a unique tone, with a melaphone to (the ghostly ‘Liberator’). Jason Johnson, who has a background with the Auckland Boys’ Choir, lends his pipes to many of the harmonies scattered across the new album. Bryn Heveldt’s lap-steel is a reminder that at the heart this has a folk/ Americana feel, and drummer Nick Brown keeps everyone on beat. Also giving voice to the ambience on this record was one prominent player: a vintage 505, time worn Selmer brand ampliﬁer, which “creates guitar warbles and distortions. Making these ﬁnely crafted tunes more timeless and slightly ethereal.” Contrasted with Lamb’s haunting vocals, which slide along between Margo Timmins, Cat Power and Gillian Welch, it’s the sound ofa band that’s used a whole year, she tells me, to design their own aural architecture. But also very prominent on this album is producer Brett Stanton (Phoenix Foundation, The Surgery).”I’ve known him for two or three years and he‘s a good bench mark of what is good music.” Lamb tells me that he recently relocated to the small Hawkes Bay beach town of Te Awanga, where the band converged to take over his parents’ house to record Lamb talks fondly about her time there, with the band spread out into different rooms, leads connecting each like an umbilical cord to Stanton’s control desk set up in the master bedroom. “We’d also tried to record on the balcony, before the competing cicadas completely took over the evenings. It’s a beautiful place, in the middle of this tranquil olive grove.” Eb & Sparrow’s last album was made in Lyttelton’s The Sitting Room, home of groups like ‘The Eastern’. While the connections with the Southern music scene are still there, Lamb was determined to make the next record in the North Island. “It was easier to travel to the Bay, not so far to go but also the vibe was different this time. So we made it over three separate sessions. We had less time but I had a very capable and energetic band. So we made all of it, except ‘Little Hands’. I made that with Tom Healy (of Tiny Ruins)’ Lamb tells me the title is an amalgam. A reference to the many males in her life, it’s also a reference to the sun. “It’s about enlightenment. You have to be in the dark, to ﬁnd the light. The sun is the ultimate light.” The album is a collection of new material and material that has ﬁnally found its way ~ like ‘Mother Mary’, which Lamb says is an old song that the band brought back to life. “By adding some violin, we were experimenting. Because we’d not done the song for a while it felt that we could experiment. The song goes from a quiet nothing to a huge building tension.” Other songs were almost inventions of their environment, like ‘Mighty Wind’, which features a recording of a rattling cutlery drawer. Brett’s parents might still be counting the silver after that session. Nonetheless, the ﬁnal result shows Eb & Sparrow has grown both from the road and from working with each other. They’re about to go on tour – so there’s a chance to see that for yourself.”
NZ Live, 2015 – Eb and Sparrow before their national tour promoting their new album Sun/Son
EB & SPARROW – SUN/S0N (DEADBEAT)
Continuing their journey into the depths of Americana, Wellington outﬁt Eb and Sparrow continue with Sun/Son – a reference to the many men in Singer Ebony Lamb’s life – father, bandmates, lovers – and to enlightenment, to
coming out of the darkness. It’s a solid collection of alt-country: holidays in the Rhododendron Capital (‘Kimbolton’), tumble- weed loneliness (‘I Want You’), challenges to masculinity (‘Coward Son’), meandering contemplations (‘A Mighty Wind’) and the occasional deep-dive wig-out (‘Mother Mary’). The striking, upbeat cover by Grimoire is a bright juxtaposition to Lamb’s brooding vocals and her band’s understated, often achingly soulful playing, authenticated by a vintage Selmer ampliﬁer which slightly distorts these ﬁnely crafted tunes, making an album that-sits well on the turntable and even better amongst the straw on a bar room ﬂoor. TIM GRUAR
Profile courtesy of Homealone. Covers used with permission. ‘Eb & Sparrow: Shining Light’ from Rip It Up, No. 377, Oct. 2015, ‘Sun/Son’ review from Rip It Up, No. 376 Sept. 2015. Used with permission.
From the Blog:
- New library 'Wellington' music on CD - Mar-Apr: Stef Animal/Tomorrow People/Eb & Sparrow/Al Fraser & Phil Boniface/Bulletbelt/Disjecta Membra
- New Album: Eb & Sparrow
- NZMM: Favourite Wellington Music Moment - Ebony Lamb/Eb & Sparrow
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- New library 'Wellington' music releases on CD: September - Eb & Sparrow/MERRIN/Ross Royce/Labcoats/Emma Davey
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