For the first half of this wonderful album, Portland-based outfit Sassparilla (Kevin Blackwell, Colin Macdonald, Ross Macdonald, Naima Muntal, Justin Burkhart and Ben Stewart) parlays the fundamental influences (country, folk, blues and rock n’ roll) into a potent mix. Armed with banjos, harmonicas, slide guitars and decent pop tunes – Magpie lives up to its promise of delivering authentic Beatlesque Americana and channeling the likes of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Tom Petty, (early) Wilco, The Jayhawks and more.
Thus, songs like “Threadbare”, “Star”, “The Mary Celeste” and “Two Black Hearts” will appeal strongly to fans who love a bit of country-folk twang in their melodic pop-rock diet. And then, halfway through, Sassparilla changes direction somewhat with a powerful melancholy vibe that takes the album to a different level completely. All of which places tracks like Tom Waits-fueled “Buick”, the gospel-tinged “You Took It All” and the sad balladeering “Broke Down Engine” into gorgeous spine tingling territory.
The album closes on a dark and sinister tone though with “The Man Who Howled Wolf” which allows the band to wrap up Magpie with a bang, somewhat combining the nuances of the two halves of the album. Refreshingly honest with songs that are targeted straight for the heart and soul, Magpie is an album PoP regulars must get. Now.