Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Short Essay on the Texas Musical Duo "Penny & Sparrow"

Music can find hope again in the spare and haunting harmonies of the Texas-based duo Penny & Sparrow.  Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke have created a sound that is both new and reminiscent of something old – as if there were two Ray LaMontagnes sitting around a campfire exploring the surprises and pauses of melody and lyric honesty.  The short history of their body of work, most poignantly put forth by the CD “Tenbloom”, shows Baxter and Jahnke to be kings of the act of musical minimalism – as they challenge the listener to a kind of intimate conversation with the music.  When so much of the radio is a blur of popstars, synthesizers, drums, and light shows – here, two honest men lay bare the simple poetry of sound.  Here they almost seem to say, come and sit with us – as if you were one of only a few invited.   Andy Baxter’s voice floats like smoke over old wood – and is further raised up by Jahnke’s own guitar and piercing vocal harmonics. 

Penny & Sparrow are much like the artist that paints the entire picture with a few strokes of color.  Much is left to the space of the imagination – what is illustrated on the vocal canvas shared by these two artists – is exactly what they feel you should know…to perhaps learn something about yourself and all the binds those with the sensitivity to listen.  And so it seems like a perfect fit that the music is infused with that most universal theme of human experience – shared emotion.  Lines left lingering in the mind on things that we have all felt, losses we have all endured, and wishes we’ve all had – fulfilled and un-fulfilled.  Heartache said simply – this is heartache.  And both the closeness and the interminable distances between two people.  Penny & Sparrow’s music gives us breathing room.   The benediction that to simply be alive and sensitive to the world can be held up in all its beauty and mystery.

Now with the debut of the song and video “Rattle”, off Penny and Sparrow’s forthcoming CD “Struggle Pretty”, we hear again the minimalist glow between Baxter’s voice and Jahnke’s guitar.  The sound and lyrics speak the spirit of what was created in their previous recordings, and the inner chambers of heart and mind for which Penny & Sparrow have created a soundtrack like no other.  Even the name “Struggle Pretty” seems to hold up to the light the very essence of life – that struggle itself can contain the beauty of life – and can even help create it.  What would life be without the beauty we create in all opposition to the struggles that descend upon us?  Penny & Sparrow have shown us poetry in song that allows us to sit right in the middle of all the storms of life and think them to be beautiful.  The great expanse of the lone star state has given us many musical artists we can be thankful for – but none so great as Penny & Sparrow.  Their storied harmonies give us permission to be human – and we will be thanking them for a very long time, for that gift.