Now Playing: Jangling Sparrows’ ‘Telecoaster’

1
jangling sparrows
Image courtesy of Doug Deutsch Publicity Services    



Jangling Sparrows is prepping for the release of a new album. It is titled Telecoaster and drops on November 1. But first, for those not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.

Paul Edelman

dangling sparrows
Image courtesy of Doug Deutsch Publicity Services

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Paul Edelman is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and poet. He is both a solo artist and the frontman for the Asheville, North Carolina-based act, Jangling Sparrows. He has also been a member of Naked Omaha, The Boxcars, The Butcher Holler Boys, and Pick Your Switch.

In a recent e-missive, he said: “ When creativity is really flowing songwriting feels organic, effortless.” It must be true since he scored top honors at the 2009 Flat Rock Music Festival songwriter competition. His rockin’ resume features several releases including 2003’s North American and Susquehanna, his 2014 solo disc Stranger Things Truer Words, the award-winning 2017 EP 140 Nickels  2017, and last year’s Bootstraps And Other American Fables. At present, he is busy touring as a solo artist, a duo, and with Jangling Sparrows.

Signature sound 

Edelman’s signature sound, called “Zyde-folk”, is actually a mix of multiple music genres including (but not limited to) Americana, bluegrass, country, folk, roots rock, and soul. His lyrics often convey a sense of empathy. He has reportedly been compared to Jay Farrar, John Prine, and Townes Van Zandt.

Telecoaster

Telecoaster is the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed CD Bootstraps And Other American Fables. The title is based on the fact that the album takes one on a journey via the music of Edelman’s guitar (and “other noises”). Edelman is ably assisted here by Niko Galfond on drums, Charles Humphrey on trumpets, and Amos McGregor on “various ambient keyboards.”   

Track by Track

The album opens on “Ready Or Not.” It was a wise choice of lead-ins and works well to introduce the essence of the work. The song seems to suggest that despite what’s going on in the real world, serenity doesn’t come to you automatically. It’s something you can achieve through your lifestyle and personal perspective. 

Edelman confirmed this in a recent communique. He said: “The concepts of tranquility, calm and peace, relaxation can be all too elusive. I think people make the mistake of seeing these things as rewards after some large endeavor or as things that happen to you at a certain stage in life but, in fact, they are a practice. . . but unless they are practiced they won’t arrive. [S]ometimes you just have to make yourself relax. So in this song, I muse on some of life’s larger puzzles that don’t really have answers and then ask you to forget them.” The addition of brass gives the song some personality here too!

The second selection is “Hey There, Brother.” This is another strong song musically and it touches on another favorite theme about empathy and the power of listening to and supporting others. Indeed, Edelman admits it’s very personal and he has tunefully touched upon this on his last release.

“[It] is a large theme in my life and it manifests in songs often. Just like “Estuaries” from Bootstraps and Other American Fables I am trying to show empathy and understanding. I am hinting to the person I’m singing to that they have what they need to overcome.”

The next number is “Contagious.” This powerful piece concerns the impact that social media can have on our behavior and relationships with others. Edelman adds: “I believe social media is making us more and more disconnected even as we reach more people.”

He concludes: “The point of view of this song is to say that you still have an impact and you are still someone. Though a lot of us wrestle with what to say and how to say it . . .it’s vital to remember there is still a person behind the screen. And it’s not so much for some to remember that about others but about themselves.”

“I Still Love Rock and Roll” is one of the songs that was actually recorded reel to reel. It’s a fun song in which he humorously reflects on our current divisive, conspiratorial, technological society and the growing importance of good ol’ honest rock an’ roll. Edelman says: “We need rock and Roll. Rock and roll saves lives…” Michael Feldman guests on drums.

Not to be confused with the 1973 hit song by Ringo Starr and George Harrison, this “Photograph” is an original like all the other songs here. While the signature sound seems to take a slightly different direction with both the vocal production and instrumental work, it is nothing if not refreshing. The musical message here is that while the good old days may have been great, it’s also important to forge ahead because the future is now whether we admit it or not. Edelman says: “I’m a forward-thinking person, I am always working to achieve new things … sometimes one has to summon courage to progress or change as we age.”

It is followed by the driving “Dance Around the Fire.” This clever cut concerns pretension and self-awareness and how the lack of the latter may skew one’s personal perspectives to the point where communication can be impeded when people use said perspectives as protection. Edelman states: “This song is a plea to those people and a commentary about how damaging that mindset can be collectively.”

Philadelphians will undoubtedly recognize “Ghost of 8th and Tasker.” In this case, it is more than a location. It’s also the setting for a slower, slightly sad, self-reflective song story.

Edelman explains: “‘8th and Tasker’ is where I used to live in South Philadelphia. I never quite fit in there and at the time it spurred a lot of self-conscious musing whenever I walked to or from my apartment. But I’ve always had a penchant for seeing the beauty in starkness. That’s how I made myself fit in, by turning myself into a ghost of sorts. [T]he more I am mentally checked out, the better I can see my surroundings.”

Things pick up again on “I Got Your Number.” It was recorded analog on reel to reel and speaks to “the phonies” of the world in no uncertain terms. Edelman recalls: “I’ve always had a strong radar for BS and it’s managed, for the most part, to keep the right people away from me.” Feldman encores on drums to complete the picture on one of the best cuts here.

Perhaps one of the more quiet, acoustic-driven, personal pieces, “Americana B-Roll” is an initial surprise. The title does not foreshadow what is to come This is a lovely personal song in which the artist grieves the loss of someone significant yet still alive. Edelman confesses: “It’s a struggle to redefine myself after being with the same people, the same group for so long. He concludes: “This one is very personal but I’m hoping it rings with others.”

“Flags You Don’t Fly” is the tenth track. While Edelman agrees that this one is about dignity and perseverance, a significant theme in his music, he also admits to the inclusion of his familiar sense of empathy. “I believe that the purpose of pain is to see it in others. This song is a recognition of the things people carry inside them.” Feldman appears once more on drums.

Also included is “The Feather and the Well.” While the subject, a failed relationship, is unsurprising, it also presents a bigger picture that gives it its own identity. The song reflects on previously-mentioned themes of employing failing yet familiar personal defaults as protection or cover. While the listener learns that they have a moment of realization, the conclusion of this is left to the audience’s interpretation. It’s highlighted by Bobby Frith on “layer guitar track and harmonies.”

The closing cut is “Rain on the Rooftop.” This is another potential fave–especially for Philly folks. The impact of the city upon Edelman is once more evident here on this atmospheric audio offering. It provides an interesting, personal reflection on his musical and metal meanderings through the “City of Brotherly Love.” It envisions an introspective offering of both the artist and the city itself. The song is an apt album endnote as he walks off into the darkness.

Overall… 

Overall, the music here seems to suggest that while Edelman has perhaps unintentional favorite, familiar themes, the human condition, modern-day culture, and our increasingly uncertain personal place in it, the way he composes each cut is almost experimental and free of formula. It is as if sometimes he writes the lyrics first, sometimes he writes the music first, and sometimes he writes both the lyrics and the music at the same time.  

He can take the listener on a journey via his guitar and emotive varying vocals because he himself has been on those tuneful travels himself. Perhaps that, and the occasional use of reel to reel recording is why some say it has a retro-quality to it. What is more interesting is how this “vintage” aspect works in conjunction with some of the more modern-day lyrics and the theme of looking to the future to present something new and original. So check out Jangling Sparrows’ Telecoaster and you might find the music to be “Contagious.”