Grandma Sparrow

Diamonds & Tapestries: The Grandma Sparrow Story

Talking Grandma Sparrow–everyone’s favorite psychedelic choirmaster, that lovable hell-raising microtonal bearded lady, that little old lysergic man-maid, prancing and dancing and leering at the sweet musical notes. It’s Grandma Sparrow–all trumpeting tropes and stereo gestures, all fairy smoke and funhouse mirrors, crooning and swooning nonsense into the abyss. Grandma Sparrow, the anthropomorphized kaleidoscope, the anarcho pied piper of L.A., that cosmic trickster bearing a fragrant musical gift…

Talking Joe Westerlund–composer, improviser, vocalist and percussionist, a core component of avant-folk/rock groups Megafaun, Califone, Gayngs and Mount Moriah. The recent album Appalachian Excitation (with liner notes by Jim O’Rourke), a collaboration between Megafaun and minimalist composer Arnold Dreyblatt, indicates the kind of adventurous modern folk musical currents that Westerlund explores. Other notable collaborators include percussionist Glenn Kotche (Wilco) and an old bandmate, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). Westerlund co-founded and performed in Sounds of the South, a Duke University commission to reinterpret selections from the Alan Lomax collection (also staged at the MusicNOW Festival and the Sydney Opera House). He earned a music degree at Bennington College, studying composition with Kitty Brazelton and Anthony Coleman, and percussion and improvisation with the iconic avant-jazz drummer Milford Graves. A trusted creative force in diverse music communities with an equal love for popular forms and more “serious” music, Westerlund’s work can be heard on releases from Table of the Elements, Northern Spy, Dead Oceans, Hometapes and Jagjaguwar. Since moving to L.A. in 2010, he has composed music for film and modern dance and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Talking Grandma Sparrow & his Piddletractor Orchestra. After Matthew E. White approached him to collaborate on a recording project for his new/old kind of label Spacebomb Records, Westerlund took the opportunity to flesh out “Grandma Sparrow,” a performance alter-ego. He explored a rigorous creative process in the studio, incorporating strings, horns, the Spacebomb house band and tape collage. The resulting album is a psychedelic children’s song-cycle for adults that reveals the composer’s fascination with collage, improvisation, humor, and the convergence of atonal and popular melodies. Welcome to a unique universe of sound, a wild world of childhood imagination and grown-up musical vision–a sparkling and strange landscape inhabited by a remarkable figure — Joseph R. Westerlund.








Photo credit: Samuel Dixon



Dean Christesen

James Cartwright