Although this EP is nearly a year old, but it is really good modern folk music by a group that has a wonderful, authentic sound. Piano, guitar, and accessible vocals, 16 Sparrows are a classic American folk band. This introductory EP is a delight for listeners and really should be in your collection, dear reader.
The opening track “Neptune” has a nice upbeat flavor to it while keeping an endearing stripped down sound. The combination of the lead male vocal and the acoustic guitar drives the song. The highlighting piano provides the fullness of sound to characterize it as Americana. The unison female vocal sets off a sound that puts me in mind of the Lumineers, but without sounding like a straight copycat style. There’s something that really feels raw and authentic about this recording, which is why it deserves a spin from the best in the business.
Second track “Put ‘m up” really showcases the string work of the lead guitar player in particular. Sometimes folk music gets a knock for the “three chord” classic folk music. I can assure you this is not your grandpa’s folk music. The guitar runs are more Appalachian mountain sophistication than tired hobo music. The harmonic intricacies on this track are pretty much amazing. It’s a sound that, even in writing about this kind of music, I’ve never really heard before. One part gospel flavored, but mostly just a unique layering of sounds. This track puts me in mind of The Postmen more recently, or even CSNY from days gone by.
“Gonna Leave” is a bit more of the classic folk song. Something about the lead vocal puts me in mind of early 90s alternative rock music. But the optimistic-sounding harmonies juxtapose nicely with the sad lyrics. Although the song is more about dissonance, it shows a completely different dimension of this band. Shifting gears “Hey Baby” sounds like it could have come off a Jack Johnson album. Both the rhythm and the guitar style are both phenomenally groovin’. (Because that’s a thing.) The female lead really works as a change of pace to the other tracks on the album and, well, because she’s good.
The final track “You are now” is another conventional folk song set apart by its great vocals. Although sparse throughout the album, the best part of 16 Sparrows are their harmonies. If they could replicate the magic in the chorus on “You are now” and “Put ‘m up” on an album full of folk tunes, they would have a real promise in the industry. Fittingly, their own lyrics seem to preempt my advice. They say, “enjoy what you have now… tomorrow you may not be.” Whether or not it was purposefully scriptural, this profound truth is one that we all need on a daily basis. Live a little, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Amen.
This is a short and sweet EP. I strongly recommend it to folks who typically enjoy the music I write about. I am excited to hear what they release next and where their songwriting goes from here. From phenomenal guitar work to endearing harmonies, 16 Sparrows are a delightful emerging folk band who deserves our attention. Please consider picking up their album.