By Jenny Grant
EDMONTON – Despite Neil Young’s rallying cry of “rock and roll can never die,” the death knell has been sounded time and again, and decades of musical criticism begs to differ. The classic rock genre has always been the definitive background, in spite of folks having long claimed their “individualism” since its inception – when it wasn’t yet designated as anything close to “classic.”
In the beginning, it was new, rebellious and had something to say. Since those days, it has been carried forward into more recent cultural epochs in a variety of forms, taking on even more creative monikers in each attempt at evolution. By contemporary standards, classic rock rests somewhere between stagnant and nostalgic, and yet, generations keep coming back to it to use it, rediscover it, and make it their own.
Jon Drombroski of Edmonton-based band Sparrow Blue, is more optimistic about where the genre fits into contemporary music. “It’s timeless,” says Drombowski, “and there’s something about the rawness of musicians playing in a fully functioning band that people keep coming back to.”
While pop music is increasingly over-produced to the point of sounding synthetic, perhaps newer listeners are looking for something to combat music that is experimental for the sake of experimentation, finding something “authentic” in the tunes their parents, and in increasing numbers, their grandparents listened to. If only the protesters, ragers and anthem writers of the rock pantheon knew their music would later be considered family listening.
Sparrow Blue released their first full album in November, after a year of recording. In a very short period of time, they’ve been getting play on rock stations across Canada, and are now looking at a spring tour. “We’ll be doing a lot of festivals coming up,” says Drombowski. “We bought a bus and we’re ready to hit the road.”
There’s something appealing about doing things the way things used to be done: forming a band with a group of friends that jammed together in the backyard, gutting out a school bus to fill it with couches and places to rest on long trips, and playing gigs to friendly audiences in favourite watering holes. Sparrow Blue’s self-described “Badlands rock” taps into everything nostalgic about their genre. Maybe it’s true that there are fewer new places music can go today, but Sparrow Blue wants us to know you can always go back.
Sparrow Blue release show is at The Station On Jasper (Edmonton) Dec. 7.Sparrow Blue, The Station on Jasper