The Skygreen Leopards - "Life & Love in Sparrow's Meadow"
(Jagjaguwar 2005, JAG82)
From Aural Innovations #31 (June 2005)
With "Life and Love in Sparrow's Meadow", The Skygreen Leopards expand on their strange pastoral folk-pop and enter center stage as one of the most unique voices in the new folk movement. The Skygreen Leopards are Donovan Quinn (Verdure) and Glenn Donaldson (Thuja, Blithe Sons, Franciscan Hobbies, Birdtree, Ivytree, etc). Formed in 2001, Quinn and Donaldson met while responding to a cryptic ad in the paper looking for Lumberjack players (little wooden dancing men you play on a board for percussion and visual interest). After being bested by an Appalachian man, Donovan and Glenn began studying the stars together where Glenn, while tracing his finger along Orion, said, "Donovan, we are the Skygreen Leopards", and so they were. So says the bands press release. I've listened to this CD seven or eight times now and everytime it sounds better; a good sign. Is this what they're calling Wyrd Folk or do you have to be English? Actually this CD is too good to be American. It has a very British 1971 sound without being obviously so, without being retro but with the Syd vibe all over it. MOTHER THE SUN MAKES ME CRY makes me think of the Faces or Small Faces. All the songs seem to have similar instrumentation - acoustic guitar, percussion, male vocals, marimba etc. This one ends with a recording of tree frogs. My wife says the singers sound like they have hangovers, but in a good way. My cat Stinky is running back and forth across the room, so that's a good sign. BELL OF THE WOODSMAN'S AUTUMN BALL - more of the same. Conjurs up Nikki Sudden (the coolest of cool). Ya'll have probably never heard of him but he was in the Swell Maps and put out a bunch of great solo albums. EGYPTIAN ROSEMARIE - more Quinn and Donaldson coolness. CLOUDS THROUGH SPARROWS EYES - really hits that 1969 Thirteenth Floor Elevator Bull of Woods sound which you don't hear that much for the last 35 years or so. TENTS ALONG THE WATER - a Neil Young quality.
I can't find a reason to critcize this CD in any way because it's sooo cool and laid back. Also reminds me of Pip Proud (the Australian Bob Dylan). Cool lyrics. The Skygreen Leopards originate from the Bay Area-based Jewelled Antler forest of bands. Donaldson co-founded the Jewelled Antler label in 1999, which has since released over 25 CD-R's ranging from straight field recordings and outdoor improv-folk to noise and fractured pop music.
CARELESS GARDENERS (OF EDEN)/ SPARROWS OF EDEN (EDEN FADING)/ DRUNKEN GARDENERS DANCE (PARADISE LOST SWEETLEY) - wow, that's like one of those Amon Duul II titles. Overall this CD is tasteful, fun, original, well done, but also somewhat samey and a bit muddy sounding until you listen to it a bit and get used to the production. Very Syd Floydian with birds that sound like keyboards.
COME DOWN OFF YOUR MOUNTAIN, MOSES - more uptempo party time. All the songs are short with similar feel and sound, like 1970 Pop Radio if everyone had homemade studios and good taste. MINOTAUR (BURN A CANDLE FOR LOVE) - the hit? This is too good to be from the U.S.!!?! LABYRINTH WINDOWS - my wife says that for someone who sings so out of key they sure make pretty music. Early Marc Bolan. You can barely understand the words but it doesn't take away. More cool lyrics, "I like to do paintings of live children and sell them to old women in flea markets in the evenings" THE SUPPLICATION OF FIREFLIES - ends with a long recording of night time tree frogs and probably some fireflies. A CHILD ADRIFT - lilting uplifting, perfect last song. Wow a great new CD from an American band.
For more information you can visit the Jagjaguwar web site at: http://www.jagjaguwar.com.
Reviewed by Carlton Crutcher