Wishing Tree is available from:
℗ 2014 Little Sparrow
By My Side– 9.7
The Flame– 9.8
Wishing Tree– 9.6
Sending the Message– 9.7
Struck Gold– 9.6
I Found a Way– 9.6
The Hunted (A Bear’s Tale)– 9.8
The Swallow Flies– 9.7
The Hunted (A Bear’s Tale)
By My Side, The Flame, Sending the Message, The Hunted (A Bear’s Tale), Heart
LITTLE SPARROW (KATIE WARE):
Vocals and Guitar
Cello and Vocals
Electric Guitar and Vocals
06 May, 2014
Few artists write music that provide the same beauty and stunning allure as that of Little Sparrow. Her name may conjure images of treetop song: a morning melody and calming refrain. Wishing Tree is an album that not only provides a phenomenal amount of grace, inspiration and emotional redemption- it italicises Katie Ware as one of music’s most astonishing and essential figures.
IT is not often I get to visit Manchester…
when reviewing music. A lot of my recent endeavours have taken me across London and Yorkshire- with a brief stop-off in Nottingham. The north- aside from obvious thriving areas like Leeds- has dropped off of my radar for a little while: it is great to train my thoughts back here once more. In terms of history, Manchester has produced some notable bands: the likes of The Stones Roses and Oasis spring to mind- in modern circles, there is a loyal sect of incredible bands and artists. When considering solo artists; perhaps other areas of the country are producing more noticeable examples: London and Leeds seem to be topping the list. I am not sure what accounts for this segregation and distribution: modern music quality is not assessed on the aggregation of acts depending on location- quality alone should enforce opinions and public tastes. It just interests me the way cities like Manchester seem to offer forth more bands (than solo stars). Of course, when you do come across a terrific solo act (from unexpected sources), it is compelling to see what they can provide: whether the quality and talent is as high as other parts of the country. Before I expand upon this- in the course, introducing my featured artist- I want to discuss Folk: a genre of music that perhaps is not always in sharp focus. The mainstream is compiled of various genres of music: Folk and its sub-genres make up a small percentage of the market it seems. With bands and acts such as The Rails and Gypsyfingers (both London-based boy-girl duos), it seems that a revival of sorts may occur. Folk has always been- I may be off the mark, but it seems this way- a slightly niche and specialist genre: certainly people enjoy it, yet it has never really struck the imagination the same way Indie and Pop have. This is a great shame, alas: some terrifically beautiful and emotional music is being made (by artists of this genre)- both in the mainstream and new music. Circus Life was one of the best albums I have assessed this year: created by London-based duo Victoria Coghlan and Luke Oldfield, it mixed Coghlan’s stunningly gorgeous and varied vocals; Oldfield’s assured production and guitar skills- incorporated into Coghlan’s songs; including quick-fire and rifled Rap; dreamy Folk ballads and colourful soundscapes. The sheer depth and range of material (on the album) took my breath away: the fantastic stories and inspired performances are still racing around my mind- it showed just how adaptable the Folk genre is. If you think about mainstream icons like Laura Marling, why would anyone overlook her music? I know she has a great number of loyal supporters; I have always felt she does not get the recognition and full investigation she deserves: her music is some of the most vivid, intelligent and poetic in the world- scored by her distinct voice, she gets stronger and more astonishing with each album. The generalisation and stereotypical view of Folk still pervades: people think of acoustic guitar-strumming songs about the countryside and nature- wishy-washy vocals expound the virtues of the planet and the free spirit love provides. To be fair, there are acts who still play this kind of music- depressing as it may sound- yet that type of music died decades ago: modern Folk is a different breed altogether- it contains an immense amount of fascination and variation. The most important thing we can do- in order to make the genre more recognised and represented- is to proffer the best the form has to offer: my featured artist is certainly on that prestigious list. I have been aware of Katie Ware’s alter-ego for some months now: having followed her through mutual musician friends, my subconscious and hind-brain has been trained on her for a long time- it is great to be able to feature her fully now. Before I go into more depth, I shall introduce her to you:
“She adopted the name following a conversation with Elbow front man Guy Garvey who, having affectionately called her “Cockney Sparrow”, suggested she use it as her stage name. Adapting this to the warmer title of “Little Sparrow” she began to play the first of an ever-increasing number of live performances, developing a loyal fan base. Katie recently topped the ‘Breaking Bands’ poll in The Guardian and for her debut album she has decided to combine all of her work to date on one enchanting album. ‘Wishing Tree’ features brand new tracks along with those that have already become live favourites – each song beautifully created with the power to capture the imagination and warm the heart. She has continued to develop into a uniquely talented artist through her imaginative songwriting and her captivating delivery. The live performances – now supported by this stunning album – promise to make 2014 a very special year for Little Sparrow. With delicately crafted songs combining flawless vocals, angelic strings and tender harmonies, listeners are taken on a journey from heartbreaking sadness to uplifting joy.”
Little Sparrow removes the impure and old-fashioned elements of Folk and transforms it into something transcendent and ethereal- her haunting and phenomenal angelics have captured the public’s imagination. Despite having been born elsewhere, music’s most beautiful bird has migrated to Manchester- in addition to enthralling and seducing local crowds, she has gained adulation from national newspapers and radio stations. Differing from the likes of Marling; Little Sparrow provides something more enchanting and spellbound- many attest to how potent and phenomenal her live performances are. She reminds me a lot of Gypsyfinger’s Victoria Coghlan. In addition to sharing similar effective voices, the duo are mistresses of emotional and scenic Folk songs: the sort that soothe your mind; take it somewhere remote and safe- ensure the listener is quelled, calmed and hypnotised. Ware’s immense beauty is surpassed by her phenomenal voice: an instrument even more eye-catching- it is unlike any I have ever heard. With a music scene seemingly obsessed by the power of the voice, having an extraordinary one at your disposal gives you a distinct advantage- ensuring Little Sparrow is among the most talked-about musicians in the U.K. Wishing Tree is the first album from our heroine: the chance for the public to hear the full extent of her talent and potential- the results certainly do not disappoint. One of my greatest personal desires- with concerns the modern music scene- is to see some form of organisation and rationalisation. Of course there are going to be scores of new musicians coming through- it is everyone’s right to join- yet there is too much overcrowding; too little quality control- at the end of the day, great scores of essential artists get buried and overlooked unfairly. In music, some are more equal than others: it is only right that the best and brightest the U.K. has to offer are given their rightful exposure and regard. My hopes and point extends to Gypsyfingers- I am sure they will be a sure-fire future hit- but it especially goes to Little Sparrow: it is clear many are falling under her spell; I just hope the momentum keeps going to ensure her name is on everyone’s lips come next year. One listen of her psychotropic voice, and you are powerless to resist: Ware is a musician that wants to draw all listeners together and write music for the masses.
Being the fledgling work from our young star, it is hard to draw in comparisons with any of her previous work. Ware has been making music for many years now, and a lot of Wishing Tree’s tracks have been available for a while- cuts like The Swallow Flies and The Hunted (A Bear’s Tale). The last year has seen Little Sparrow tour extensively: taking her music across the country, she has been playing her tracks to eager crowds- gaining feedback and studying reaction. It is clear that her songs mean a lot to her supporters: there are no early nerves or signs of weakness to be found at all. A lot of new acts showcase songs that are not as strong- as their later work- and that which is defined by incompleteness- Little Sparrow’s first movements are assured and filled with confidence and beauty. The biggest development one could see is between the live version of the album’s tracks- and the studio equivalents. Having also heard cover versions and other tracks (by Little Sparrow) the work on Wishing Tree is the summation (and fullest representation) of Ware’s visions. Her songs- when in the live environment- are tender, emotional and awash with intimacy. The album’s songs have greater depth and realisation: the high production values do not water-down Little Sparrow’s luster- it highlights her incredible voice and lifts the songs to rarefied heights. Everything- on the album- comes across as deep and nuanced: the combination of musicians add richness and colours to the tracks. In essence, we are really witnessing the continuation of our heroine’s tender moments: the Cementation of her most personal and relevant songs- the results really speak for themselves. The biggest point one can raise is with regards to her future movements- Wishing Tree is the result of years of performing, writing and hard work. Whether Ware is planning on releasing new material next year- or is going to wait a little- that will show the development she has made. As her debut is so full and compelling, it is going to be fascinating to see what direction she takes next: her sound is so unique and distinct, one suspects future output will follow the same line as Wishing Tree. If you have a particular talent and voice, it seems remiss to tamper with it too fully: I suspect her next moves will introduce new topics and inspiration; keeping her core firm and unfettered, we will probably witness a comparable collection. Artists like Laura Marling do not radically evolve between albums: Marling keeps her personality and distinctions as they are; instead choosing to change subject matter and introduce new stories. I suspect Little Sparrow will work the same way: new compositional elements may come in, yet it will be the lyrics that are going to be the biggest change- as opposed to the vocals and style of music.
Our heroine has a very distinct and elliptical voice: it makes it hard to compare her with anyone on the current scene. If I had to think of any particular names, I would first consider Kate Bush: one of Little Sparrow’s idols, you can draw parallels between the two singers. Ware has that same swooping and emotive voice: capable of flying and soaring, her range and diversity lends huge weight to her compositions. If you listen to songs such as The Hunted‘, you can hear what I mean. On this track, the vocal shifts between low and tender swathes; the voice then rises and mutates: reminding me of The Kick Inside-era Bush, I was astonished by the sound of the voice coming through. Whilst Kate Bush may employ her higher register more freely and ambitiously, Little Sparrow strikes you with her complete range: she has a gorgeous and crystalline upper register in addition to a solid and incredible lower range- the notes in-between are fully represented and covered. I have heard other acts- influenced by Bush- such as Anna von Hausswolff, but find myself more impressed by Little Sparrow: she has the soothing softness and seductive whispers that get inside of your head and confuse the senses- able to elicit an enormous natural beauty, her voice is her most potent weapon. If you were looking around at other singers, then think perhaps Joni Mitchell and P.J. Harvey. I have never been a huge fan of Mitchell’s voice, yet one cannot deny its prowess: when Little Sparrow reaches her high notes, I get essences of Blue-era Mitchell; when swooning and memserising, shades of the Folk goddess come through. I know P.J. Harvey is another icon of Katie Ware: you can detect some of Polly Jean’s distinctive colours in the mix. When Little Sparrow considers tender subjects and matters of the heart, one can extrapolate elements of To Bring You My Love (Harvey’s third album). That same gut-wrenching passion and beauty comes through; Ware employs a similar sense of density and atmosphere- oceanic depth and stunning drama is unfolded. Whilst Harvey- on this album- may look at dark and unsettling themes (at times she covers death and infant mortality), Little Sparrow has a similar potency and weight: her beautiful and ethereal numbers elicit the same reaction in the listener; that sense of stun and adore. I guess it is pretty hard to draw other singers into Ware’s distinct circle: the overall sound perhaps has touches of classic Folk and modern-day Blues. Little Sparrow the artist does not stick to a narrow themes and confines: her songs are infused with a depth of different and styles; taking in a myriad of scenes, our heroine ensures her compositions are as varied and fascinating as the vocal itself. The final comparison I would bring in, would be regards to two songwriting colossus: Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. They may seem unusual names to throw onto the page, yet seem pertinent: like the U.S. masters, Ware has a similar ability to confound and seduce. Cohen’s dark and fascinating poetry; Dylan’s genius lyrics and insights were enough to drop the listener to their knees- possessed of a distinct talent, the listener comes away- from listening to the music- amazed and overwhelmed. Little Sparrow’s sense of atmosphere, surprise, emotion and projection had me thinking of Cohen and Dylan: I get a similarly visceral reaction listening to Wishing Tree as I did Songs of Love and Hate and Blonde on Blonde- you cannot deny the effect the album has. I say the same thing when assessing any new music: do not judge it on other artists’ acclaim and reputation. It is true you can detect some pleasing familiarities, but Little Sparrow- more so than most acts I have ever reviewed- would be done a disservice and injustice (if she were compared to others)- her distinctions are what makes her so unique and incomparable. If you are a fan of any of the artists aforementioned, then Ware’s nom de plume will not disappoint: the biggest treasure comes when you assess the music on its own strength- and discover a very rare jewel indeed.
After mentioning Polly Jean Harvey, Wishing Tree begins with an appropriate track: Polly. The opening embers of the track are still and imploring: our heroine asks her subject to come home- knowing her words “paint a picture“, your thoughts are instantly compelled to imagine and wonder. You get images of a tender and ingenue central figure: out in the unforgiving circumstances of the world, perhaps here is a runaway or lost figure- vivid images of tears (on Polly) and nervously anxious moments come through. Backed by languid and aching strings, Ware’s voice is a paragon of gentleness and seduction: the passionate conviction and tenderness gorgeously eases through the mood to connect with the listener. Instilled with a worried tongue, it is said that- unless Polly returns- the dust won’t settle “until you’re safe back home.” A sense of mystery pervades and lingers: not knowing the circumstances behind this missive, you wonder what has caused the heroine to flee- perhaps a relationship has broken down or personal doubts have made her question her place in the world. Possessed of quite a literary and classic story-line, the atmosphere is augmented and ignited after the 20 second mark: a clicking percussive snap drives quickened strings- those classic tones beautifully melt with Ware’s determined and stunning voice. Matching the flair of the composition, the vocal becomes more impassioned and quickened: our Little Sparrow can see the lost fledgling from her window; “staring back at me“, your mind starts to reassess and wonder. Perhaps the song’s subject is playing a game; maybe it is more an essence of a person (as opposed to a physical thing); we could be hearing of a child that has fled the nest- such is the intrigue, ambiguity and fascination that is laced in, it is impossible to collect all of your thoughts into a cohesive whole. Hand claps and backing vocals raise the intensity and fever once more: Ware’s voice becomes pin-sharp and balletic as she sees Polly below- wondering whether she can tie her wishes “to the tree.” Perhaps an animal form or strange sensation is being unfurled; whomever is ascribed, Ware is anxious and keen for resolution- she will not be satisfied until they are safely returned. “The attic is bare“; “Your voice is so missed“: with a resolute and composed vocal, you can feel the haunting sadness linger- it appears that this person made a big impact; their presence is being sorely missed. The song keeps you captivated by its changing skin: one moment the vocal and composition are spirited and rushed; the next it is slowed and floats- ensuring that every note and word stays in your mind and enraptures you. With Ware speaking of “bright colours” shooting out into the sky; the beauty that is all around, you feel that a last-ditch plea is being made- that desperation and fear becomes unbearable. As the song nears its end, the composition becomes more swelling: Ware’s voice echoes and calls out- it is impossible not to hope the song’s subject returns home. Polly is a triumphant and phenomenal start to the album: the early signs of By My Side let us know that more wealth is forthcoming. Gentle guitar and impassioned violin beckon in the track- beginning with energised and romantic intent, you are lifted and fascinated at once. When Ware comes to the microphone, her voice is urgent and determined: meeting her sweetheart (I imagined a man was being referenced) “in the park“; her hero will blow away her fears- one suspects that something more tender and redemptive is afoot. A gorgeous guitar arpeggio drives the song (reminding me of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out); Ware keeps her voice true and straight as she pays tribute to her man- someone who tells her he will make her “feel complete.” As you feel romance will bloom and blossom, events take a turn for the worse: her sweetheart leaves in the autumn; taking himself off across the ocean, he sadly departs. Sensing an air of confusion and hurt- backed splendidly by the emotive composition- you sympathise with our heroine. Ware does not want him to depart; “Please don’t go far away” she says- wanting him by her side, her voice is at its sharpest and most beautiful. Whilst lonesome watching the leaves change colour, she waits from the window- like a seafarers’ wife, all she can do is hope that her man will return safely. Polly possessed quite a vintage and charming heart- the same sort of subject Kate Bush would cover- as does By My Side: it has its soul in literature and bygone classics; such is the nature of the words and stories. It is impossible not to be hypnotised by the sensuality and stillness of the vocal- unimpeded by heavy composition, it is a spellbinding and beautiful performance. You know how much this person means (to Ware): if he remains true and noble, so shall she- all she wants is him to come back and be with her. Backing this tale of aching love is a particularly impressive violin: one that tugs at the heartstrings; forces tears and wild wind; whips up a compendium of scenes and sights- providing incredible backing to Ware’s enraptured voice. As strings combine and mingle- providing a sense of reflection and pause for thought- you sigh and smile as it washes over you- hoping that a satisfactory resolution will come about. Our heroine makes a last plea to her beau: calling across the land, she is incomplete without him- few listeners will leave the song without their heart offering support, tears and ache. Following on from the serene and emotive By My Side; The Flame employs darker and shadowy notes: projecting twilight moments, a haunting vocal works alongside the shady and foreboding instrumentation. When Ware offers embryonic words, I caught a glimpse of Beth Gibbons: that same catch the voice; a similar breathiness came through that caught me by surprise- and set up what was to come. After some Portishead-esque beauty, Ware showcases just what makes her voice so special: able to go from a child-like innocence to a deeper and more sensual low, it brings her words to life with stunning desire. Proclaiming “I’m the same as all the rest“, you feel she is speaking to her lover: wondering whether he will ever see the best (in her). If you- like me- see embers of Portishead, parts Bjork come through too: that same stunning atmosphere and majesty is summoned up by Ware- supported by brave and stoic strings. It is a hugely impressive performance- even early on- as our heroine gives herself up to the war: she is going to give it “everything I’ve got.” Ware casts herself as the flame: something to be viewed and loved but not touched. Begging for love and respect- rather than something cheaper and more shallow- you sense a woman who needs comfort and commonality- her man maybe is unaware of just what she desires (and should know better). Here the composition is at its most magisterial and stirring: tremulous percussive shimmers bond with aching strings; joined by haunted backing vocals, a sonic storm is unleashed- superbly lifting the song and enforcing its messages. Ware wants to be treated kind; she knows that the world is growing up too fast- there is room for love in the fast-moving and complex life. Awash in a lake of serene contemplation, Ware is a lonely woman in a hollow relationship: as the final stages come into view, you wonder whether the hero will ever step up and do the right thing. Our heroine’s voice transforms into a bird song: twisted and beautifully entwining her words, the projection and delivery is impeccably well-considered and impressive- realising love is the same everywhere, Little Sparrow’s unique assessment gives the words a stark and unimpeachable beauty. Our heroine has a flame inside of her; it is always growing and burning- it needs to remain bright and hot, yet it is in danger of being extinguished. The title track arrives next. Here we are introduced to something more Country-tinged and upbeat: an invigorated and dancing string coda shakes off the sorrow of numbers previous. With an itinerant mind, the song spares little time in making the brain conspire- wondering what is arriving next, you are captured by the intriguing introduction. Ware’s voice is firm and pointed here: carefully delineating her words she advised (her subject) to “Take a step back from the things you see“- it appears if they do not, they will become easily confused. Taking us away from the sound and flavour (of the first three tracks), Wishing Tree is a tantalising and exciting number. Returning to the parable of the wishing tree, Ware advises her man to plant his essence in a field; grow his life and be her wishing tree- a charming and sweet sentiment. The vocal is particularly effective: Ware employs a call-and-response tactic; delivering the line, it is then repeated back- giving the track a constant momentum and energy. There is child-like innocence and playfulness throughout the song. Ware closes her eyes and counts to ten; she makes a wish- wanting to take her boy’s hand, she will pick colours from the rainbow. The song’s effusive energy and kick makes sure you are caught up in it: you will find yourself singing the song after you have finished listening to it- such is its charm and power. Our heroine wants her wishes fulfilled and her heart satisfied: her hero needs to make his queen happy. It is the melody and vibrancy of the composition that really resonate: the latter has hallmarks of Jack White’s Lazaretto (and its Country moments); the melody flows and swims- it is impossible to shake off the beauty and grace. Sending the Message arrives to provide the album’s half-way mark. Starting life with gentle and gorgeous strings, there is an element of darkness that comes into the initial moments: we are back into the dusk and experiencing something less innocence. When Ware arrives, she advises her focus to “Take this town/give it up.” Instantly, you wonder what the words are referencing- if she wants her man to leave and go somewhere else; you are certainly curious. The voice is crystal-clear and spectral: desiring her suitor to take everything “beside me“, she implores boldness. In this moment, you know something more redeeming and inspiring is being spoken of. Ware wants her man to aim for ambitions and dreams (and do not hold back)- whether he has been sacrificing too much or hesitating, now is the moment to go for what is craved. In a sense, here is a continuation of By My Side: again, our heroine wants her man to be with her and not leave; it seems that whatever he is planning, she wants to be included in it- the thought of being left on her own is causing upset. With a fantastically emotive and memorable vocal combination- backing vocals pair and weave; overlap and spiral- Ware is sending the message forth: come to her and do not leave. A call of distress, that unique and wonderful beauty remains in place- Ware reaches operatic splendor and divinity (around the 1:50 mark). Boasting one of her most stirring and emotive vocal performances, Sending the Message keeps you gripped and compelled. Ware’s vocal elongates and holds- with accompanying backing vocals- as she proclaims she’s “holding on“- keeping her hopes alive her man will not go away from her. The weight and grandeur of the vocal compels the listener to silence: you simultaneously are gripped and fascinated- wanting things to work for the best. Ware once more makes it known that both lives can be achieved: fulfilling dreams and wishes; being with her. With a romantic clarion call- sending shivers through the air- one wonders whether our heroine will get her wish: when the song trickles to its end, perhaps she is destined to be on her own. It is hard to shake the beauty and immense passion of the vocal; the conviction and tenderness of the words- the heartbreaking composition. In need of soothe and uplift, Struck Gold comes into play. Sighing and uplifted wordless vocals give the song a heavenly and choral beginning: you get the feeling we could hear happier scenes. Once more love is being looked at: Ware’s man takes a little piece of her wherever he goes- the vocal is lower here and has a sigh and seductive undertones. Bound to her man, our heroine gives paen and adulated outpouring: not believing her luck, she is caught in love’s heady spell- lessons are being taught and sage words proffered. Ware is determined to keep this thing alive: asking her man to keep his eyes on her, she would not change him “for the world.” When it comes down to it, he is “the piece of me that struck gold“- that safety and contentment resonates in Ware’s soothed and sensual voice. As the song rises and rushes, Country edges come through once more: shades of Nashville arrive in the yearning composition. Our heroine is “ordinarily forgetful“, but she is “already home.” Stepping away from the tone of previous numbers, here Ware has an older heart: she has been through the mill and is relived to be ensconced in a warm and loyal haven. The lovers have different pasts and personalities- our heroine did not think that the relationship would last and thrive. Against all the odds of trepidation and doubt, the duo seem to be going strong: when the chorus comes back into play, you cannot resist sing along in support. Our heroine shows how versatile her voice is: presenting a fully convincing Country performance, she laces the song with authority and passion- you would imagine you were listening to the likes of Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline. Keeping her inimitable and defined heart solid, you feel a sense of relief and assurance: after turbulence and upheaval, it is great to hear Ware come up roses- you hope that this will continue for a long time. Beginning with a dusky and touching vocal- backed by darkly-plucked strings- in I Found a Way; our heroine “found a way into your room.” With much passion and lust in her vocal- as I have heard anywhere else- Little Sparrow has reason to be renewed: immersed in her lover’s heart, she does not want to get out- she won’t get out as “I’m all yours.” Joining beautifully tumbling and springing guitar strings is soft (but notable) percussion- Ware drives I Found a Way forward with her open and extraordinary vocal performance. Imbued with a constant energy and force, our heroine seems relaxed and determined at once: knowing that these feelings will “never fade“, here is perhaps the most overt testament of happy love. In spite of the comfort of this passion, our heroine has no intention in finding more about her man: it is not her plan to dig deeper and get to the core. Stunning Kate Bush-esque cooed highs (around 3:05) delightfully get inside of your head- Ware never lets her potent voice drop or subside; it captivates the entire way through. Maybe tempted to delve inside her man’s soul, you feel the love may break (if she does): now that she is in his life, she does not want to jeopardise that. Ghostly and angelic vocals float above a bubbling undercurrent- mixing Country tones into proceedings. When the closing moments come into view, the positivity and comfort never lets go: Little Sparrow is at her most soothed and romanticised here- it is a pleasing thing to hear and provides necessary counterbalance to some rather hard-hitting (earlier) numbers. Having been around for a while- a live favourite too- The Hunted (A Bear’s Tale) is one of the album’s stand-out tracks. Starting with an explorative and mutating guitar coda, there is a calm and sense of serenity at first. Ware’s voice teases and aches; stretching and emoting, she sees her hero high up on the hill- a faraway figure, you wonder whether love has broken down, or if our heroine is chasing her desired target. Ware is alone and by herself; to be with her friend and “follow your trail.” It is here that Little Sparrow shows another quality to her voice: that aching and elongated delivery is unlike anything I have heard- able to summon up so much emotion and force, it hangs and glides in the air. Our heroine projects herself as the animal and hunted: thinking she has failed in the world; her voice implores those not to follow “into my cave.” Loneliness and a sense of detachment come through; your heart goes out to her; the words settle in your mind- images and pictures flood in as you imagine Little Sparrow as a scared and confined figure. Advising caution, she tells her brave follower to back up: perhaps he is pursuing her romantically; Ware feels too lost to offer anything solid- maybe staying away is the best course here. When our heroine says she is “hunting the huntsman still“, you feel there is redemptive force coming out: desire and longing are making their way through in the form of ravenous intent. Life forms and images turn towards scenes of capture and taxidermy: Ware wants to bring the huntsman down; tear him apart and have him stuffed- notions of romantic ideals perhaps take a back seat! Danger, temptation, hurt and fear linger throughout the song: our heroine has a wounded and hurt soul and cannot control herself- she may lash out and will not “forgive myself.” Experimenting with- and pushing- her voice; our heroine goes from primal (and wounded) howls; sorrowful introspection and spiritual highs- her voice runs a gamut of emotions and colours; each one vivid and fascinating. I get captured in her performance: not only do the works starkly come to life; the listener is treated to the most compelling vocal turn of the L.P. As Ware’s voice stretches, cries out and gasps, it seems that the bear has been captured: the pain and dread resonates and there is definitely lust underneath. Adding a plot twist and final piece of the puzzle, Ware (tells her man): “Touch me I’m yours“- subverting expectations and providing a romantic and honest final thought. Our penultimate track arrives in the form of Heart. Riverside and spacey; sexy and impassioned, the initial electric strings beckon the listener forth- touches of early-career Radiohead come through in the guitar work. When Ware comes to the spotlight, she unveils one of her most impassioned and seductive vocals. Able to tempt the birds from the trees, it has a smoky undertone; a beautiful and lustful core- giving the lyrics a stunning amount of urgency. Encapsulated in the evening’s promise, Ware wants to “see the joy in your eyes“; desirous to see behind the disguise, she is with her lover- wanting him to take the ribbon from her heart, her quivering voice is filled with desire. Her man puts a “new beat” in her heart (once again): in these honest moments, you can hear the true and inner Little Sparrow come through- the romantic and impassioned woman. It is hard not to be washed away in the tranquility and beauty of the song: the vocal and composition are delicate and tender- Ware’s voice causes shivers and smile. Her lover opens her door to her mind: usually more closed and cordoned, his passion and presence is causing happiness and renewed hope. If you close your eyes and let the song take over you, it causes myriad images to flow: you see the sweethearts talk and hold hands; making plans, our heroine believes there is “something waiting for me.” By the last seconds, you still cannot open your eyes: that endless beauty and softness (that emanates) is a powerful and potent force. Taking Wishing Tree to its end is The Swallow Flies. Another track that has been gaining a lot of attention, it is a perfect swan-song- to a marvellous and phenomenal album. Starting with a gorgeous vocal, Ware wonders whether you could “ever be a reality“- could she ever open sails to the clear blue sky? Your head and heart see her floating over the oceans: sensing Ware has a desire for freedom and the open air, her voice is at its most natural and wistful. Witnessing the “pictures in your eyes“, our heroine is hand-in-hand with her sweetheart- tripping through the streets (where the soldiers line), you can hear the sun shine and breeze blow. Looking up high, the swallow flies in the north-east wind- our heroine wants her love to “Just dance/Just dance/Tonight.” While you try to project everything that is being sung, you are once more tenderised by the haunting vocal: Ware’s voice soars and sweetly whispers- on top of gently-picked guitar; one of the album’s most still and evocative moments is elicited. A haunting and emotive coda ends the track: backed on vocals, Ware stretches her words- “Breathe in/Breathe out” in a deep breath; coming back a few more times, the atmosphere builds high. As Johnny Lexus offer some Qawwali-inspired vocal notes, the track comes down to land- you sit and smile after hearing the last notes of a truly remarkable album.
Having offered up so many words about Wishing Tree– I will try to keep it relatively brief here. Most albums or E.P.s (I have heard this year) have at least one or two weaker numbers: here there is nothing even close to that- each of the ten tracks are exceptional and demand multiple investigations. Covering so many different topics and possibilities, each song acts as a new story: vivid detail and rich emotion pours forth- it is an album that gives so much and demands only attention from the listener. Most modern artists pack albums with similar-sounding tracks: Ware ensures that each of her songs has a different heart and very unique feel to it. Folk and Contemporary are genres that are hard to get right and perfect: modern mistresses like Laura Marling have added their marks on the form- Little Sparrow has the potential to be among the most talked-about artists in the world. Before I provide praise to the album’s players, I will mention one point: the production. Every song on Wishing Tree is given space and room to breathe and proffer: each word and note rings with clarity; the vocal is exceptionally precise and clear. Too many albums are ruined by bad production values: songs are scarred because the vocals are distorted and mixed too far down; the composition gets too heavy and persistent- it is a shame to witness. Wishing Tree sounds very much like a live album: in the same way Jeff Buckley’s Live at Sin-é (recorded in a New York coffee shop in 1993) draws the listener into an intimate East Village cafe; here it is as though we are listening to Little Sparrow in a charming and characterful room- just a few musicians and enough room for a few lucky listeners. Before I mention our star; praise much be given to her supporting cast. Sarah Dale does a magnificent job throughout: her cello offers sadness and loneliness; aching notes add so much emotion and passion- it almost steals the show on a few number. When backing Ware on vocals, songs have that extra bit of weight: Dale is a key cog in the Little Sparrow machine. Graham Clark provides equal passion and musicianship throughout the album. His violin tones offer ache and sensuality; romance and gentle touches- it is a fantastic performance that lends so much to a rich and wonderful album. It would be great to hear more of his contributions in future releases (from Little Sparrow). Johnny Lexus provides Rock-edged heart and some masculine edges. His electric guitar plants grit, passion and punch (when the songs call for it); composure, strength and emotional support at other intervals- his vocals beautifully combine with Ware’s too. My final applause goes to Katie Ware- the biggest of all for sure. Her guitar playing is exceptional, detailed and compelling throughout: it appears constantly and shows what a fantastic and talented musician she is. Her lyrics and songs are tapestries of impassioned love, personal doubts; burning desires and classic literary tales- few contemporaries have such a talent and flair for songwriting; Ware is among the most exciting songwriters of her generation. The final point- and obvious shout-out- goes to her voice: that unstoppable and unforgettable weapon that is stronger than everything else. When I was reviewing Gypsyfingers- and Coghlan’s voice- I was stunned at how beautiful it could be: I had not heard too many female singers able to shift their voice and present so many different aspects. Ware has one of the most scintillating and emotional voices in music. Capable of enchanting and heart-stopping beauty, there is times- throughout Wishing Tree– where you are stopped in your tracks. It is not just her highs and sweeter tones that seduce: her range and mobility means she can go from husky and darker whispers to hot and heavy middles- there are not many other singers that match her in the voice department. I knew I would enjoy Little Sparrow’s debut album- I was not expecting to love it quite so much. The songs keep going around my head: I find myself listening to specific parts; re-playing certain vocal moments and snatches- keen to take in the full majesty of the album. Perhaps one of the finest records I have heard all year, Little Sparrow is a treasure that everyone should seek out- Wishing Tree is the first essential purchase of 2014.
I suppose my effusive and positive words give you an insight into my overall feelings: Little Sparrow is one of the most effective and stunning artists on the music scene. Not only one of this country’s brightest lights, she has a talent that transcends Folk barriers and very much connects with everybody: like Marling, Little Sparrow has the potential to be one of the most talked-about musicians available. With the likes of The Guardian including her in their ‘Breaking Bands’ polls, it appears it will not be long until huge breaks and developments are afoot. Ware has taken her music across the north (and the U.K. as a whole); seduced crowds and swathes of fans- the demand off of the back of Wishing Tree will rise and augment massively. Its songs are all wrapped around Ware’s sublime and stunning voice- do not think of her as a one-trick pony. Even if Little Sparrow had nothing else to offer, she would be worth seeking out: the fact that the songs are incredibly atmospheric and inspired is the main selling point- the reason she will go on for many years to come. If you want to succeed and remain in the public consciousness, you need to deliver campaign promises; make sure every music-related facet is considered: Ware has taken great trouble to ensure every possible consideration is covered. An every-man sort of performer- she has a natural warmth and friendless that has enchanted audiences- it is impossible not to elicit a sigh and be warmed by Little Sparrow- personality and warmth are ideals that many modern musician negates to consider. In addition to the stunning music, Little Sparrow ensures that her online portfolio is complete and authoritative: her official website is informative and well-designed; plenty of information is included- her range of representation across music-sharing sites is impressive and considered. Our heroine has ensured that as many ears as possible can access her music: seek out the woman behind the songs and investigate everything there is to know. Too many new musicians present minimal online coverage: perhaps something pithy and nondescript on Facebook and Twitter; the odd track on SoundCloud– precious little else. With Wishing Tree having been in the ether for a couple of months now, I have been checking out reviews and early feedback: a lot of positivity, praise and respect is coming the way of the Manchester-based songbird. Polly– one of the album’s finest tracks- is released imminently, and is sure to receive rotation across the country’s most important and influential radio stations. Those that have not yet heard Little Sparrow get a chance to witness just what she is about- hopefully compelling them to pick up her album. I began the review- I shall leave you be soon; I know I have said a lot- by mentioning Folk, Manchester and discriminating public minds- I shall wrap this all up with more succinct regard. Manchester is a city that has provided some of the world’s most spectacular and inspiring music: as we see this year tick away, the city is going to gain headway with regards to toppling the likes of Leeds and London- acts like Little Sparrow (and bands such as The 1975) are making impressive footsteps; a resurgence and reclamation of birth rights is going to occur. Public tastes are more open and less discriminating as in recent years: people are being more adventurous and allowing themselves to witness some of music’s most interesting new acts. The Folk genre is receiving a hell of a lot of new attention: in addition to fantastic artists putting it back into the limelight, music-lovers are realising it is one of the most compelling genres available. Little Sparrow’s Contemporary-Folk blend (of spectral beauty and incredible harmonies) is something that more people need to take a hold to. It is music that blows away the blues; capable of eradicating any form of weariness and disinterest, it does what great music should do: puts you in a better head space and inspires the mind into the bargain. Wishing Tree is a compendium of beauty and fascination from one of this country’s most promising young songwriters- a singer that has few equals; a sound that has few competitors. If Ware ever comes and plays London, I will be there- front row and centre– it must be quite an experience to witness her music that close and direct. For now, I shall end this review with one important point: the future of music. We are all aware of what is happening in the mainstream: the goings-on and new releases come to our attention freely; it is hard to escape the glare of publicity and promotion. When it comes to new music, there is less attention paid: the artists often have to sell themselves and it can be a Herculean task deciphering the best from the worst. Incredible new music is synonymous with its diversity and quality- genres like Folk and Contemporary are leading a very promising charge. If you have tired- like many have- of heavy and overly-emotional sounds; bored with the same old kind of music; are eager to uncover something affirmative and genuinely beautiful, Little Sparrow- and Wishing Tree– should be at the top of your list. I don’t know about you, but life is not as rosy and spectacular as it could- and definitely should– be. I find myself looking to music to provide solace and a sense of comfort (and redemptive balm). If you desire a similar form of much-needed remedy…
I know just the musician.
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