You'll Believe Again
Three years ago this month, I spent several hours one autumnal night in New Zealand scouring iTunes for the latest and greatest to tickle my ears. Covenant and Controversy was yet in its infancy, and I craved new sounds as I wrote notes and outlines. Eventually, I found a Texas duo with a then-recent LP follow-up to their three-track EP debut. Tenboom and Creature captivated me; infrequently does one find melodies, harmonies and rhythm carried and constructed by so few instruments (here, two voices and one guitar).
Since then, Penny and Sparrow have toured relentlessly and released two more full-length albums. It's a good turnaround workflow for a growing fanbase (now and again, I'll see a barista wearing one of their t-shirts at some hole-in-the-wall specialty cafe). I caught their Denver gig last weekend in promotion of their latest release, Let a Lover Drown You, at what turned out to be their largest headlining show thus far in their career. It was a good night for the books, and the 500-some odd crowd didn't take it for granted.
Andy Baxter opened the set with a few a cappella measures, and the Bluebird Theater was arrested. Kyle Jahnke followed suit with harmonies and acoustic guitar, and no one else made a sound until the last song of the two-track encore. Not kidding. Half a thousand people shut up and listened for an hour––something I've not seen in all my years of concerts large and small. It was beautiful.
As an added bonus, the set list covered material from all four albums. It would be easy for them to cater to the recent additions to their following (as I'm assuming most are), but their hour on the stage gave an honored nod to the catalogue they've developed over the last several years. Most noteworthy was a rearranged "A Woman Caught," which wove the chorus from "O Come Let Us Adore Him" throughout the study on the exchange of shame and grace recorded in John 8.
Over the years, the duo's material has continued to mature in sound and lyricism. Everybody is releasing their albums on vinyl these days, but few are worth the hour it takes to get from beginning to end with your track-skipping privileges revoked. These guys are storytellers with devotion to the integrity of the craft. They're the kind of artists who make you believe in music again, even when you thought you already did.
Penny and Sparrow is the kind of act that comes once in a lifetime––a unicorn, if you will. Their sound and masterful lyricism is worth the evening out. While the mythical likes of Adele are difficult to catch live, you can easily spend an affordable night with Kyle and Andy while they finish out their tour cycle for Let a Lover Drown You.