Street Sounds: Jay Sparrow takes flight with Bluebird

Alberta-based singer/songwriter Jay Sparrow cultivates a gritty alternative country vibe on his first full-length solo album.

Edmonton singer/songwriter Jay Sparrow is an ex-punk gone country-rock.

His voice ain’t pretty, more of a high pitched bark that you’d hear at some backwoods hootenanny, but it has character.

On Bluebird, his first full-length solo album, the Alberta-based singer/songwriter cultivates a gritty alternative country vibe like a rough-edged Brad Paisley without the guitar histrionics. As such, he’s a good representative of the flourishing roots-rock community in Western Canada.

There’s a toughness to Sparrow’s sound – it’s a terse stringed instrument-driven hybrid of rock and country.

The distance between Edmonton and Nashville is noticeably apparent on tracks like All the Boys Want You.

This song seems like a flagship tune for the album, pushed forward by its angular vocals and raw choruses. Most of all it moves on exuberance and good ol’ attitude.

Sparrow and his band get that across easily and the album has a candid, slap-back spirit, driven by nervous energy and rocking communion.

They summon up a weird swampy revivalist atmosphere on songs like Bound By Nothing that has biting lyrics like “Never had a redneck mind/Or whatever you call my kind/My mother had Christ/But she wouldn’t preach/Because she couldn’t lie.”

Otherwise, there’s plenty of good-time, throw-down wheat field country and straight out party rock (Everything but Today).

Sparrow has some of the strident Jack White delivery in his singing and the music has an edge, even when delivered with a back porch banjo (The Wind and the Risk). Sparrow and his band don’t hold back and Bluebird is a passionate performance that’s close to the bone.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews new music releases for The Morning Star.