Sassparilla - Magpie
Record Label: Fluff and Gravy Records
Release Date: Oct. 23, 2012
Portland, OR roots-pop sextet Sassparilla are not ones for idle time. Their latest disc Magpie is their fourth in six years and their second in 2012 alone. All in all, Magpie is nine songs from a band who is quickly becoming a favorite on the Pacific Northwest roots scene and for good reason. Label them folk-punk, psychobilly, rockabilly or bluesy-folk, but make no mistake, the music is sincere, earnest and well worth the listen.
Lead single "Star," centers on a harmonica and a blues vibe that is dusty, backwoods and swampy. While it isn't very indelible, the harmonica shines and allows the song to swim in at atmosphere that is both halcyon and hermetic. "All The Way In," carries a heavy dose of Mumford and Sons and there's a roots jangle to the chorus that borders on Celtic. It is also hear that one can hear The Pogues influence through and through. One of Magpie's winningest moments is "Broke Down Engine, " a melancholic tale that strays far from being maudlin and instead allows the verses to do the talking. Anchored by the lines, "Just when you thought you had this thing licked, life comes at you sideways, you're riding the rims," it is a stirring testament to adversity and weathering the bumps and bruises that fate throws at you.
Not one to lack in lyrical substance, Magpie's firmest statement might arguably me "The Mary Celeste," a ruminative cut about a ship found in the Atlantic Ocean in the the latter days of the 19th century. As much a historical narrative as it is a yearning ballad, "The Mary Celeste," is the kind of song the band can hang their hat on. Other glorious moments include "Buick," which relates life's quandaries to fixing up a car, and the whiskey-tinged "The Man Who Howled Wolf," a splendid cut ripe with heartache, disappointment and despair.
And it is in those minutes that the thirty-six minutes of Magpie make the most sense. Guided by vocalist Kevin Blackwell, Sassparilla hit on something pleasant and pliant. It might not be the greatest roots-record but it is without a doubt, thought-provoking and melodic. And sometimes that's all that's needed to get through the day.