Reviews: Sparrow

SONGLIST: Hurricane / If I Was a Sparrow / Devil's Highway / Forgiveness / Katie's Got a Locket / Night Train from Milan / The Sound of Falling Snow / Little Speck of Dust / Maybe Next Year / Top of the Hour

A seasoned singer/songwriter with seven previous albums to his credit, Jeff Talmadge has more or less remained below the radar as far as reaching that wider audience he so decidedly deserves. That status is certainly undeserved, especially given the fact that his songs express a poignancy and passion that only the most skilled artists are ever capable of conveying. That ability is especially evident on Talmadge’s highly anticipated new album, Sparrow….

[H]e creates a series of vivid soundscapes that are as affecting as they are evocative…. [I]t’s the scenes and scenarios interspersed throughout that testify to Talmadge’s skill and savvy.

It takes a poet to truly capture the assurance and serenity embossed within each of these effortlessly engaging melodies. It’s hardly surprising then that this particular Sparrow literally seems to soar.

Lee Zimmerman is the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound from Texas A&M Press. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Ripple and has written for American Songwriter, Flipboard, Paste, PopMatters, Glide, Relix, Goldmine, The Bluegrass Situation and The Daily Ripple.


“The Sound of Falling Snow” is a beautiful song in the second half of seasoned singer/songwriter, Jeff Talmadge’s new record, Sparrow. The gentle tune captures the quiet moments of life — those seconds that it so quiet that it is possible to hear “the sound of falling snow.: It is a fitting summary of Sparrow’s appeal. Talmadge’s songs are tailor made for silent mornings or evenings when one is in the mood for contemplation of the subtle highs and lows of life….

The slight lift in Talmadge’s voice, or the short flare from one of the instrumentalists, underlines the emotional depth and resonance of Talmadge’s lyrical material.

Sparrow flies into the pain of life, but always with hope and love. Talmadge’s authentic and honest songwriting is worthy of time and attention.

David Masciotra is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man, Working on a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen, and Mellencamp, American Troubadour. He writes regularly for The New Republic, Washington Monthly, Progressive, No Depression, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Daily Ripple.


[T]hirteen years after his previously released 7th record, “Kind of Everything,” it feels good to welcome a new album from the folk and country troubadour Jeff Talmadge from Austin, Texas. With the ten intimate and poetic songs on “Sparrow” he has succeeded in convincing us that his work and his storytelling stories have really been missed. (Belgium)


We welcome back an old friend, Jeff Talmadge, who we haven’t heard from in over a decade. The storytelling, finger-picking guitarist was quite prolific in the early part of this millennium and while mostly under the radar here in the states, amassed a significant following in Europe….

Talmadge is a poet with few peers, embracing these dark tales but delivering plenty of provocative thoughts in the process. His co-producers, Kopp and Leonard frame his songs and fingerpicking stylings beautifully with their clever touches.

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore, Country Standard Time and The Daily Ripple. He has also written for Variety and was a radio host on public radio for 25 years.


Jeff has never disappointed me, except with his more than 10 years between his beautiful "Kind of Everything" and this "Sparrow".... But to get straight to the point: his magi is still there (or just back).... The lyrics are wonderfully poetic, his voice is still endearingly smooth, and he sings the beautiful songs with feeling. And once again there is excellent production. Storytelling at its best on a warm bed of folk/country accompaniment with many surprising percussion element. And don't forget the breathtakingly beautiful instrumental closing track, "Top of the Hour." A must buy folks!

— Fred Schmale, Real Roots Café (The Netherlands) (translated from Dutch)


… I didn’t know Jeff’s music, and Sparrow is my baptism by fire. A very pleasant one by the way, and Sparrow is music that requires you to sit down and listen, with contemplative songs and lyrics. Lovers of calm, narrative music will know what to do, and perhaps it is time for him to cross the ocean again for performances here.

Theo Volk, Music That Needs Attention (The Netherlands) (translated from Dutch)


Songs like the weather-worn “Hurricane” or the tender “Forgiveness” echo Lone Star antecedents like Townes Van Zandt, guy Clark, Steve Earle and James McMurtry. The winsome “Katie’s Got a Locket” wraps honeyed dobro notes around a story of missed opportunities and dashed hopes.

The best tracks wed nuanced narratives to wily arrangements and infectious melodies….

Anyone who appreciates the honey and wood smoke of Iowa troubadour Greg Brown, the folky reveries of Steve Forbert, and the country comfort of Rodney Crowell will find a kindred spirit in Jeff Talmadge.

Eleni P. Austin wrote music reviews for The Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988, and has written  for The Coachella Valley Weekly since 2012 and for The Daily Ripple since 2019.                      


Sparrow is Jeff Talmadge’s eighth studio album, so it’s about darn time it arrived!....

Much like a quiet man that doesn’t need to raise his voice to grab your attention, Jeff Talmadge has created a strong album of songs that draws you in gently, rather than grabbing you tightly and pulling you over. With plenty of truly lovely acoustic guitar work, matched to smart and sincere lyrics, it’s the sort of album you may want to put on while meditating upon the bigger issues of life. It’ll soar in and out of your thoughts, much like a sparrow in flight.

Dan MacIntosh has been a professional music journalist for 30 years. His work has regularly appeared in many local and national publications, including Inland Empire Weekly, CCM, CMJ, Paste, Mean Street, Chord, HM, Amplifier, Country Standard Time, Spin, and The Daily Ripple.


The stories emerge seemingly spontaneously and the somewhat weathered, pleasantly soft singing voice timbre always invites you for a new listen. Just listen to the cello-laced "Night Train from Milan" or the fingerpicking on "Little Speck of Dust" [This is] peerless country folk that seems to have emerged from times long past, as illustrated by the beautiful "Maybe Next Year" and the melodious instrumental closing track, "Top of the Hour."

— Cis van Looy, Written in Music (The Netherlands) (translated from Dutch)


Sparrow, his eighth and latest, is just as strong as anything in his catalogue. There is a relaxed beauty to the songs here that pull in the listener from the opening track….

Talmadge’s unrushed delivery comes across like John Prine on his more contemplative songs, and his guitar finger picking style is reminiscent of Guy Clark.

Ten years is a long time to wait for new music, but Sparrow definitely makes the wait easier.

John B. Moore has covered Americana and punk rock for the past 20 years and has written for Blurt, New Noise Magazine, InSite Atlanta and NeuPutur Magazine.


Jeff Talmadge is a Texas songwriter through and through.

Sparrow is just about a perfect recording. Jeff’s style is classic singer songwriter with strong melodies and lyrics that are easy to understand, delivered in a relaxed style reminiscent of classic Tom Rush or John Prine. The recording is produced by Jeff along with J. David Leonard and Bradley Kopp who both offer tasty accompaniment to Jeff’s fine fingerpicked guitar.

Tom Druckenmiller has been a writer and contributor to Sing Out!, as well as a radio host and programmer for many years. He has hosted “In the Tradition” on WDIY in Allentown, PA for the last sixteen years, and he is co-host of “Sunday Folk.”


High Time for Jeff Talmadge! Jeff Talmadge is a seasoned Texan, who makes calm and harmonious music with poetic album … with above all appealing lyrics and an equally beautiful and harmonious guitar accompaniment.

Pigeonholing Jeff Talmadge is difficult, and to find something to compare him to is at least as difficult, if not nearly impossible. Yes! It must be an old legend like Woody Guthrie then – that at least I can relate to. In any case: this record simply must be heard!

[T]he narrative texts become a bit of an audiobook at an unusually beautiful pace.

Berlin Calling (Sweden) (translated from Swedish)


[Jeff Talmadge has] the same ability Prine had to write three minute novels that said as much in one sentence as most writers take a book to get out. Little gems glitter among Talmadge’s trunk full of treasures. On the title cut, Talmadge opines that “You can always tell a young man/ But I guess it’s true you just can’t tell him much.”

Talmadge lacks Prine’s nasal twang, opting for a more mellow delivery, but his songs are as poignant as Prine’s zeroing in on the lives of everyday folks getting a few moments of glory shone on them.

Like Prine’s offerings, Talmadge’s images linger on long after the music stops, a master class in poetry set to music.

Grant Britt is a staff writer for No Depression and a regular contributor to The Daily Ripple, where this review first appeared. His work also appears in BluesMusic Mag and the Greensboro News and Record.


**** The chirping of the sparrow is so familiar that we hardly pay attention to it. But look at the cover of Sparrow ... and realize what a beautiful bird the sparrow actually is. The songs on this album come to the listener in such a natural way that something similar is created.... Once Talmadge (vocals and guitar) has managed to capture the attention, he manages to maintain it effortlessly, especially on this album.... The songs create a feeling of not worrying too much. Everything will be fine in the end. Even though the wind always carries new questions, take your time and listen to "The Sound of Falling Snow."

John Gjaltema, AltCountry.NL (The Netherlands) 


Various sources have compared his music to that of Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Mickey Newbury and Townes van Zandt. In my opinion it is the latter two with whom the comparison is most apt…. The music has an intimate character, and the songs radiate both beauty and melancholy.

— Wolfgang Giese, (Germany) (translated from the German)


Timeless troubadour Jeff Talmadge recorded nine songs and an instrumental for this comeback album, which he made after a hiatus of more than ten years.... His new songs fit seamlessly with his previous albums…[W]ith his sonorous voice and laconic tone, he convincingly evokes the characters and events he sings about…. The fact that he actually sings about humanity in an almost whisper makes his songs hit hard.

— Ruud Heijjer, host, Radio RTV Katwijjk, (The Netherlands) (translated from the Dutch)


Jeff Talmadge has quietly released a new album, on Berkalin Records, of solid, earthy folk songs that confide in you honestly with acoustic guitar, a sincere vocal and classy songwriting: Sparrow. No jangle or indie faux-vulnerability here, just the real thing. A man and his guitar singing clear and true. It’s been [over] ten years since Talmadge released his last album, but, thankfully he decided to share his songs with the world once again…. Check this out for some solid songsmanship.

— Elise Cady, Americana Highways