Little Sparrow (ft. Robin Dewhurst)
Tender is available via:
7th December, 2017
THERE is something appropriate about…
reviewing Little Sparrow’s latest track on Christmas Eve. Featuring Robin Dewhurst; it is a song that talks about familial importance and putting things into perspective – it is almost like I know what I am doing! I will mention the song’s origin in a minute but, before then; a look at a few different subjects. I want to look at the collaborations one finds and the perfect blend; the support of radio stations and getting important bodies behind your work; I’ll talk about inspiration and how real-life is still the best source of inspiration; Manchester and how it is an area I am more and more excited about; Folk songwriting and how the voice is an asset that cannot be overlooked; music in 2018 and launching a fresh assault; how the best artists always develop and overcome anything that comes their way. I am tired of scrolling through Spotify of a Friday – when I am collating the songs together for my weekly Playlist – and seeing all the songs that cram as many bodies into the pack as possible! There is such a nauseating, commercial aspect to songs that bring artists together. Gone are the days of Kiki Dee and Elton John; Kirsty MacColl bringing something magical to Fairytale of New York: some classic duets that have lasted through the years. Even if it is an instrumental incorporation; I feel too many artists, these days, are joining forces so they can get a credit on a song – and, therefore, get some heat on streaming services and a bit more recognition. The best collaborations, whether vocal or instrumental, is when there is a great story behind it – or when the artists bring something unique into the song. I am not sure how Sir Elton John and Kiki Dee found one another; whether Kirsty MacColl knew The Pogues before stepping into the studio – the way the voices connect and blend is sublime. We do not really get a lot of collaborations now that are essential and seem perfectly-suited. Some are quite well-judged but too many suffer. It is odd we have not seen a modern-day classic, in that sense.
I am seeing new music fare much better in this respect. Little Sparrow (Katie Ware) is synonymous with her voice and the way she can own a song. Bringing someone into her magical and heady world might seem like a problematic transition and modification. Could anyone, regardless of their bond with Little Sparrow, adapt and assimilate their talents into the fold?! That is something that has been answered by Robin Dewhurst. He is a pianist and composer and, as I shall talk about, met Ware in a very special situation. Although the predominant element of Tender is Little Sparrow: one gets something different and unexpected coming out in the song. Those used to Little Sparrow and her Folk-cum-Singer-Songwriter machinations might take a little while to absorb something I have not heard from the young talent. It is not a huge departure but one can hear new angles and inspiration coming into her music. With more material promised for next year – more on that in the conclusion – I wonder whether the Little Sparrow/Dewhurst unity will provide further progeny?! That would be exciting to see, for sure! Their meeting is a rather special and unusual one; they work together really well and they seem natural and comfortable together in a musical setting. It is wonderful seeing them collaborate and produce a song that has a very personal message – one that can be understood and appreciated by everyone out there. If you hear two artists come together (or more) that sound completely in-tune and brilliant; that can lead to something remarkable. Against the proliferation of aimless hook-ups and jam-packed songs: finding something pure and perfect like this – with Little Sparrow and Robin Dewhurst – is a breath of fresh air. Not only, in Tender, do we get two musical talents fuse their voices (literal and musical) into a great song; there is something ultra-Christmas and wintery about their names alone (we have a Little ‘Sparrow’ and a ‘Robin’ flying together!).
I am a huge fan of BBC Radio 6 Music and one can only imagine Little Sparrow is, too! She has been backed by the station and I have heard her current single played by them. One of the biggest names who has thrown his weight behind the Manchester artist is Chris Hawkins. I know we have bird-overload here (Hawkins is referred to as ‘The Hawk’ – seeing these three birds fly together is an odd sight!) but it is great something like Hawkins invested in your work is no small honour. I have heard him talk about Katie Ware and pay tribute to a remarkable artist with a voice like no other. I know, as more material comes from Little Sparrow, we will see the station get behind her and more of their D.J.s add their praise. Hawkins is someone I have a lot of time and respect for – the fact he is so excited about Little Sparrow should give her camp a lot of pride. The station is one of the most influential in the country and I think, once you get kudos from BBC Radio 6 Music, you can pretty much sit back. Not to say Little Sparrow will but I know 2018 will see her music taken to heart by them and spend a lot of time on the station. Hawkins and Radcliffe are two D.J.s who have realised the majesty of Little Sparrow but, knowing the kind of music played on the station, other D.J.s will play her music very soon. Maybe we overlook radio and see it as a thing of the past – given the power and dominance of streaming services – but it is still the most important way of getting your music to the masses. Many overlook it or pay comparatively little focus to the medium. It is all about streaming figures and getting (a song’s) figures wracked right up. Something as simple as contacting a radio station or making it more visible to them is a lot more important, in my opinion.
The radio is where most of us discover music – or have done, at least – and its appeal and lure will never go away. More and more of us are tuning in so, if you get your music noted by a big broadcaster, that is something you can be very proud of. Naturally; Little Sparrow will look at the streaming sites and get her music out there but the fact she has some big names invested in her music shows she realises how important radio airplay is. I know this will continue into the New Year and we will hear a lot more of her music in our ears. All of this celebration and BBC Radio 6 Music-backed applause is not as a result of one song or chance: Katie Ware has been crafting her music for years and has built up a solid reputation. One can chart her trajectory and realise she has put her heart and soul into everything released. Since Wishing Tree (the album released in 2014), I have been following the progress or a fantastic songwriter. It is no wonder she is getting into some prominent ears and has gained that appreciation. As I look into 2018; I know Little Sparrow and Shay Rowan (who works with her) will look at stations like BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 2 and see how her music is received. Hawkins has thrown his weight behind her work and I know he will continue to back her into the coming year. I know local radio – through Manchester and down in London – will turn onto her songs as will some of the big national brands. I will end this review by looking at international possibilities: the overseas market is somewhere I would expect Little Sparrow to explore very soon. Radio, for all its accusations of being a relic of past days, is as relevant and popular as any time in recent memory. With digital options like BBC Radio 6 Music bringing people in; artists need to understand that it is the most important platform in terms of promotion and exposure – Little Sparrow fully understand this.
I said I’d mention how Robin Dewhurst and Katie Ware came together – how Tender came to be, as it were. Last year, she (Little Sparrow) was given a late offer of the chance to play at Kendal Calling festival in the area known as Tim Peaks Diner. Tim Peaks is the brainchild of Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess and is, in their own words: "...is somewhere where - in addition to the scheduled list of quality live artists, D.J.s; book readings, food and coffee - those in attendance can expect the unexpected with surprise treats and secret performances". Hosting the day was BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Hawkins. Pianist and composer Robin Dewhurst had also been invited to play there. (Robin is the father of Blossoms guitarist Josh Dewhurst). Both Little Sparrow and Dewhurst were then approached by the Tim Peaks F.M. team with the idea of working together to cover a classic Pop song in a totally original style - and then make a recording of it which would be made available as a limited period download from Kendal Calling. The track they were given was Baggy Trousers by Madness! It is a big challenge by anyone's standards but Ware and Dewhurst (assisted by Ware’s cello player, Sarah Dale) produced a wonderfully original reworking of it. They were then asked to perform it together live at Tim Peaks Diner - which they did to great response. They really enjoyed working together and said how it would be nice to do something more - but timing wasn't on their side at that point as the arrival of Katie's baby boy was imminent. They picked up on it again this year, however, and Tender (her own composition) was born. One can see the scenes and imagine that first meeting between Ware and Dewhurst. Having that wonderful setting and magical occasion; it was only natural they would make material together.
The song itself is about the importance of family and the memories they provoke. Ware asked her family and friends for their memories; to provide photos and snaps that they felt were special. Ware compiled them and, with her own family in mind, produced a song – alongside Robin Dewhurst – that summoned up the role of family. It is quite appropriate, at this time of year, the song should come to light. It is a time when people are congregating and we are thinking more about our homes and hearths. In a wider sense; Tender provides perspective and realisation; it is a moment that makes you reflect and look at your own life. Too many songs deal with love and personal concerns: this is a much more open and involving track that brings the listener in and makes them consider life, family and their role. That unique and exciting coming-together of Dewhurst and Ware is something that, I hope, will see fruit blossom in 2018. I know there is an E.P. coming but let’s hope they continue to conspire past that release! We often see bands and songs formulate but never really ask about the formation and inspiration at all. I am interested in how music is written and why artists pen what they do. If a solo artist brings someone else into the fold then it is always good knowing how that happened and where it will lead. So many artists neglect that and do not tell the listener anything – they are supposed to piece it together and discover it for themselves. That is not the case with Little Sparrow and Tender. Real-life inspiration is, to me, the most effective source. From the classic bands of the 1960s through to the present-day acts; those songs that lodge in the heart come from personal backgrounds – it makes a big difference and means you are much more likely to return to that song.
I have spent a lot of 2017 involved with London and the music coming from there. We often forget there are other areas of the country and why it is important looking at other parts. Manchester, as I will write about tomorrow, is becoming more and more popular. The city has always produced world-class music – from The Stone Roses to Oasis – but, in modern times, the focus has been put elsewhere. New acts like PINS and False Advertising are offering female-led Rock/Alternative sounds and could really shake-up 2018. There are some great Pop artists coming from Manchester and brilliant Folk sounds – as typified by Little Sparrow. It is the variation and quality that really amazes me. Consider Katie Ware and the sort of sounds she combines. It is a fulsome and colourful experience that has a trembling heart and swooning high – it takes the mind and body somewhere special. Listen to the likes of False Advertising and you get something more instant and physical. It is a city that always provides the goods and has that astonishing legacy behind them. I love the classic acts of the 1990s and how they changed music - but I realise those days are long gone. The attention is shifted to London and you know Manchester has less of an impact/role than past days. That is no fault of the artists but the way the media is addressing music. The city’s people are different to London and you get something different with Manchester. I know all the biggest labels and radio stations are in London but we overlook the North and how crucial it is. I will expand more on the subject tomorrow but hope more eyes cast the way of Manchester (and Northern cities) later in the year. Little Sparrow shows the quality and variety that is coming from the city; why we should be excited and keen to focus on this part of the U.K.
Before I look at the latest track from Little Sparrow; I will look at Folk and how the voice can get into the head. Katie Ware is a singer you listen to and do not forget! She has that immediate effect and, when you hear one of her songs unfurl, it is only a matter of time before it resounds in the heart and stalks the memory. I am not sure whether she had any formal training but there is so much natural intuition and passion in the tones. I am obsessed with the voice as, I feel, it is the most important element in any song. It is the instrument we ignore and, I wonder…are there any modern-day voices that can rival the legends? There are some modern stars noted because of their vocal prowess but there are far fewer than the past. Maybe it is more difficult standing out from the crowd and adding anything new to music. That said, with artists like Little Sparrow around, there are some that have immense grace and potential. I am loathed to compare her to anyone else because there is the distinct and unique air to her presentation. (Maybe Eva Cassidy or bits of Stevie Nicks?!). It is a blend that, as said, gets into the heart and makes your mind wander and float. Little Sparrow’s music can be considered Folk-based or Alternative. She has strands of classic Folk artists like Joni Mitchell but has a very modern aesthetic. There are acoustic strings in the mix but Little Sparrow employs piano, strings and, as we can see with her latest work; she has joined forces with a fantastic composer/pianist. The song itself follows on from her previous work but there are new elements in terms of lyrics and music. Tender is one of the most personal songs from Little Sparrow – past songs have looked at fantasy and dream-like situations – and I wonder whether a future E.P. will go down the same lines. Katie Ware is someone who can take any song and really make it shine. The way she approaches music and her performance talents are far superior to most artists out there. She takes the basis of Folk and adds aspects of Classical, Soul and Singer-Songwriter to the remarkable blend.
Aching cello and far-off, haunting vocals open the track. One hears Ware wordlessly eliciting and stunning from the shadows. Her voice floats and glides; it gets under the skin and amazes with its beauty. The cello adds something striking and stern. It is a great contrast that means, rather than creating split in the early stages, provides a complete whole and sense of unification. One gets a real emotional hit before any lyrics have been sung. It is no surprise the recording of this song inspire more material – you can hear how involved and committed Little Sparrow is. Alongside cello work by Sarah Dale; Robin Dewhurst comes in on the piano and provides something balletic, romantic and touching. His performance is as beautiful as Little Sparrow’s voice and gives the song impossible tenderness and grace. It is a shivering and tremulous coda that makes the listener reflect, react and buckle. The heroine comes to the microphone and is in a patient mood: “I sit and wait for you to take your time” is a wonderful line that has a contradiction and clever wordplay. It is oblique and intriguing; the heroine does not mind waiting because of the subject. Maybe it is a family member or someone who is struggling. From the bird-like, angelic sounds of before; Ware’s voice is more concentrated and deeper. It has a conversational, empathetic sound but maintains its beauty and incredible spirituality. The song’s subject goes into the room (of the heroine) and sits upon her bed. They put their hands on head and you can get an impression of what is happening. Whether an older relative or parent; going into that room – I imagine a lot of white and autumnal colours; something quite English and modest – and sitting on the bed. Maybe memories flood back or it is a sense of sitting in a quiet place and absorbing everything. No words are exchanged but one gleams a lot from the movements and footsteps in Little Sparrow’s room.
Tender words cannot say “what I’m dreading to hear from you” – life is “too short for this”, it is said. The subject is too good for this, whatever that may be, and it seems the world is not ready for their sense of dignity and respect. The way Little Sparrow’s voice reaches a high reminds me of Joni Mitchell. One gets the sense of albums like Blue and For the Roses. One hears the spirit of Mitchell swim in the veins of Little Sparrow as she sends shivers up and down the spine (and places you did not know you could get shivers!). The song, as it progresses, is about loss and someone who is not long for the world. They have, perhaps, gone too soon and there is a definite sadness coming from the song. Dewhurst’s piano is respectful but adds raindrops, tears and a comforting shoulder. It is amazing hearing the textures and fabrics unveiled in the piano. So many different emotions and ideas are expressed; they fuse perfectly with Little Sparrow and the extraordinary vocals one discovers. Maybe it is an elderly relative but that bedroom scene gains more relevance – maybe the last time they will sit on that bed and be in that house. It is a raw and heartaching consideration but the song is never too full-on and exposed. If Little Sparrow exulted too many tears and pain from the voice – and from the piano – then that would make the song too forceful and intense. She balances the sorrowful with the serene. You get a nice mature that means you are sad and supportive but never feel oppressed and too depressed. Tender is a fitting title for a song that looks at realisation and age. Little Sparrow is young so was not expecting something so harsh and unexpected to come her way – one learns truth and lessons when they are older. Ethereal backing vocals melt with the foreground and create layers of beauty and light. It is a song that affects you upon the first listen and shows Katie Ware has lost none of her skillset, quality and songwriting ability – it might be the best song she has created! Robin Dewhurst adds his talent to the song and helps produce a song that is as rapturous and epic as it is pure and emotional. I, for one, am looking forward to more material – if it is as good as this then it will see Little Sparrow richly celebrated by the nation’s biggest radio stations.
Next year is going to be a very important one in terms of changes and consistency. I feel new genres will come to light and Pop will mature and alter. I feel Folk has a big role to play and artists that have a more contemplative and soft dynamic. Little Sparrow will release an E.P. early next year and it will be her first release since giving birth. Family commitments are important but she has had to incorporate motherhood and those duties into her regular life. Some women, who work in music, might change their course and priories when they become a mother. Maybe newfound happiness means their music features family heavily and departs from what they usually create. Although Tender has family connections and base; it is a song that includes everyone and does not depart too hugely from her past work. I guess maternal roles and the changes in life will come into the new E.P. but I know Little Sparrow is someone who will not change who she is because she is a mother. It is a nice way of asking whether the music will become too soft and child-obsessed – I know she will continue to produce material that takes the listener into her bespoke, mystical world. The year ahead provides the opportunity for fans and followers to discover new acts and get behind artists who will make a big impact. Little Sparrow has a great and growing fanbase – and fantastic support - and will see her music get out to the people. It already has the support of names like Chris Hawkins - so I expect that sense of ambition to continue. Tender brings Robin Dewhurst to the fold and he adds something very special to the song. I am excited to see where Little Sparrow flies and what she can accomplish in 2018. Here is an artist that entrances with her voice and weaves stunning, original songs that place emphasis on visions and imagination. You do not get the ordinary and run-of-the-mill with Little Sparrow!
I wonder whether international dates will be part of the plan for 2018. Obviously, with a new son; Little Sparrow cannot take the music too far for a long period. I know she will be excited to get her new music out there but how much of a radius can she impose? Will she be able to spend time abroad for any period of time? I know there are plenty of sources and venues in Manchester she can explore but more time further this way is a possibility. I feel she could play at a few London venues and areas like Brighton. There are many fans in the South that would love to see her so I wonder whether that is a possibility. The North is teeming with quality and possibility so she will put a greater emphasis there. I feel nations like the U.S. and France – seems random but they respond well to the sort of music Little Sparrow is playing – would welcome Katie Ware in and give her a home. It is always a case of timing and money when you embark on international dates but is a time where she can strike and clean up. Maybe she will wait for a while longer before going too far but the U.K. is a huge area where she can make an impact. I am pumped and ready to see Little Sparrow grow and come back from a slight break – if you can call pregnancy and giving birth a ‘break’. I shall leave it there but am very glad Tender is out and we are hearing new stuff from Little Sparrow. That meeting with Robin Dewhurst, and what he brings to the song, has provided new impetus and drive to Little Sparrow. 2018 will be another big year for her and one where she can make some serious headway. She is a hard-working and dedicated artist who puts her all into everything. Tender is a beautiful and wondrous song that means, with Robin Dewhurst, Katie Ware’s Little Sparrow…
IS truly back in business!
Follow Little Sparrow
PHOTOS (except the single cover):