Jangling Sparrows is a band born in Philadelphia, PA. Their new album is titled Bootstraps And Other American Fables. But first, for those not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
According to social media, singer-songwriter Edelman studied at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for a year before settling in Philadelphia, PA. He hosted open mics there for years. Edelman said: “My strongest asset is the ability to surround myself with people that are better than me.”
He not only made connections there but also became “a sought after player in town.” Edelman added: “One of my first bandmates insists that I invented the term Grunge as a musical genre.” His rockin’ resume includes being “a Boxcar, a Butcher Holler Boy and lead guitar[ist] for Naked Omaha, three of the hottest tickets in town, simultaneously.”
Edelman was eventually “selling out the World Cafe” and even sharing the bill with such artists as Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry, and Langhorn Slim. Soon he was flying solo with the Jangling Sparrows.
Presently based out of Asheville, North Carolina, the band roster currently includes Paul Edelman (guitar and vocals), Louis Stein (bass), and Joe Grey (drums). The band likes such entertainers as Katie Barbato, Dan Collins, Dave Desmelik, Pierce Edens, The Honey Cutters, and Nikki Talley.
The band’s signature sound is often labeled Americana. Still, if you listen carefully to their music you’ll find it’s a mix of multiple music genres including alt-country, country, folk, rock, soul, and twang rock. The act’s influences include Jay Ferrar, Tom Petty, Townes Van Zandt, and Neil Young.
Bootstraps And Other American Fables
This is a generally inclusive audio offering that demonstrates the results of songwriting that touches upon both individual experiences and the universal commonalities that unite us all. It focuses not only on pain and imperfection but also in perseverance and appreciation. It’s the follow up to the band’s 2017 platter titled 140 Nickels.
Track by Track
This 11-track album opens on “Estuaries.” It’s a strong album opener. Along with the album’s endnote, it provides this work with a framework.
It’s essentially a rocker with a repetitive hook that reminds us that the measure of a man is not how much adversity he faces but how he deals with it. No one lives a perfect life. The trick is in persevering.
“All That I Was Never Afraid” flows from the previous piece. Again, the theme of perseverance is pervasive in another musical life lesson.
Not to be confused with the 1971 song by Merle Haggard and The Strangers, “Carolyn”, like all the other tracks here, is an original song by Paul Edelman. This one touches on personal insecurities and the idea that no matter imperfect you are, someone can see through the issues and still love you.
The next number is “Hey! Hey! Harriet Tubman!” Here Edelman provides listeners with an unusual tuneful tribute and a general rallying cry to boot.
One might expect “Highway Jawn” to be yet another tiresome track about touring. It is not! It’s an energetic song more focused on the positive side of the experience such as meeting folks and making connections.
“Violynne” is not so much yet another song about a failed relationship as it is about the human condition. Sometimes instead of taking a swallow of sour milk and throwing it out, we put it back in the fridge and eventually go back for seconds. Sometimes it can be bad for the “sour milk” too.
“Follow Me Down” follows. It cleverly touches on the very real idea that women seem to love bad boys. This could very well be followed with a song about moths being drawn to the flame.
The band’s signature sound remains consistent on “True, Fine Now” although the music goes in a slightly different direction. Complete with some solid guitar lines and vocal work, the tune reminds the listener that sometimes it’s about living in the present and appreciating when the present moment is a good one.
“Joshua Chamberlain” is next. Here we once again witness the idea of the band presenting a tip of the hat to a historical figure but also presenting the audience with a rallying cry. How many bands write songs to Civil War heroes anyway?
“Label’s All Mine” somehow has a slightly jazzy feel to it. The vocals are intentionally dusky and this smoky song stands out because you can’t help but think the band had fun on this one.
The closing cut is the near-titular track “Bootstraps.” It works well as it aptly slows things down a bit. The cut is comparatively simple but you’ll only understand it if you’ve actually felt as low as the speaker. Interestingly, it’s also a friendly acoustic-driven reminder that everyone’s pain is real to them and we can perhaps all share a common sense of eventual redemption.
Overall, this work is a fine example of what just a trio of truly effective artists, can do with thoughtful, original material, often emotive vocals and an assortment of elements from multiple music genres. So check out Jangling Sparrows’ Bootstraps And Other American Fables because, well, the late, great “Joshua Chamberlain” would want it that way.