Larry Sparks | MUSIC: Soundbite | Indy Week
Pin It

Larry Sparks 

Special Delivery

Few bluegrass artists ever make an album as strong as Special Delivery, but Larry Sparks has reached such a high level of artistry that it seems a bit disappointing. That said, Special Delivery does provide all the hallmarks of Sparks' 30-year career as a bandleader: soulful, passionate bluegrass vocals, precise, understated guitar work and well-chosen songs.

A private 53-year-old of proud countenance who cut his teeth with the Stanley Brothers and Ralph Stanley, Sparks comes from the final generation of old-school bandleaders who expect their groups to first and foremost make their chief sound good. Today's bluegrass bands mostly follow the partnership model popularized by the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene. The old model permits a visionary artist like Sparks to shine and his music to evolve, while the new one helps ensure longevity of a specific lineup providing a tighter and tighter sound.

The traditional "Be Nobody's But Mine," Gary Ferguson's "Timberline," "Loving on Borrowed Time," Hank Williams' "California Zephyr," and "I'm Moving" by Paul Craft and Cadillac Holmes all join the large ranks of classic Sparks. He eschews unnecessary matters, heading straight for the heart of the music. The focus settles clearly on the singer and the song. Sparks takes charge with his voice and sizzling--although most judiciously employed--guitar breaks, just as he does when he drops his shy offstage manner to become a commanding presence in performance. As a bonus, the CD includes the finest liner notes ever for a Sparks album, written by Durham's Penny Parsons.

Nonetheless, as a total project, Special Delivery does not rank among Larry Sparks' very best releases. Somehow, it seems to lack the sustained, consistent passion and intensity of his top-shelf albums. The sound comes across as only adequate, not totally crisp and clear. For example, on Ferguson's gorgeous "The Undelivered Message" the arrangement seems a bit rushed, particularly the first instrumental section. That aside, Special Delivery contains some wonderful music by an underappreciated master of bluegrass music. In the end, you can't go wrong with Larry Sparks.

  • Our critics' picks in new releases

Latest in MUSIC: Soundbite

More by Art Menius

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in MUSIC: Soundbite

  • Soundbite

    Our critics' picks in new releases
    • Nov 16, 2005
  • Soundbite

    Our critics' picks in new releases
    • Nov 16, 2005
  • Soundbite

    Our critics' picks in new releases
    • Nov 16, 2005
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Comments

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation