Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Mighty Sparrow: First Flight [Smithsonian/Folkways, 2005]
The writing here rarely approaches the finished wit of the Ice anthologies, and just because Volume One is still available, don't assume it always will be. But consider that all this material dates to before he was 25. Most of the songs--recounting news stories, local happenings, life in the yard--are homely moments of social music, the sole love song a Christmas postcard to a spouse back home. But the homeliness isn't just charming. Singing about Bermuda shorts, a peeping Tom, Laika the satellite dog, or the Eric Williams government, Sparrow embodies a musical culture unlike any that's existed in the U.S., even in the South. It's like a griot society too irreverent for praise songs, with an admixture of pseudo-Brit sophistication that would suggest Anglo-India if it wasn't so earthy. And the studio bands definitely have some jam, as in the unkempt fanfare to the opening "No, Doctor, No" or the brief sax solo on "Gun Slingers" or the chorus crooning the title refrain to my favorite, "Harry in the Piggery." A-