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Special Delivery

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Album Review

Larry Sparks has managed to remain within the fold of traditional bluegrass while also forming a unique style. This style includes hot flatpicking guitar, distinctive vocals, and a steady release of albums. Special Delivery finds Sparks with a good batch of songs and strong supporting players. The songs have been penned by a number of writers, but the themes are unified in outlook. Each lyric is imbued with a Southern, rural point of view, which includes championing the virtues of rural living, true love that transcends death (for a girlfriend or mother), and nostalgia for "the way things used to be." "Ghost Stories" tells of driving past abandoned farmhouses and overgrown gardens and leaves the listener with a sense of loss. This song, written by Bill Cook, Bo Jamison, and Jim Benson, captures something deep and elusive, much like Sparks' classic, "John Deere Tractor." "Timberline" is about having a quiet place to go and sort out one's thoughts, a place to "get it straight and head on home again." "Lovin' on Borrowed Time" is a defiant sendoff to a lover who's left for someone new (bluegrass musicians seem to loose women to other men almost as frequently as blues players do). Two instrumentals, "Around the Carousel" and "San Antonio Rose," give Sparks, mandolinist Scott Napier, and banjoist Josh McMurry room for a little picking and grinning. In fact, there really isn't anything bad to say about Special Delivery, though one should note its short length (33 minutes). Sparks is in good voice, his friends are in good form, and the 12 songs/instrumentals are good ones. This performance should be a real treat for lovers of traditional bluegrass. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


Born: 15 September 1947 in Lebanon, OH

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Larry Sparks has said that he's the youngest old-timer around, and the self-description is an apt one. Emerging from the Stanley Brothers' Clinch Mountain Boys band, Sparks carried on with the sounds created by bluegrass music's first generation. His style was no knockoff, however; it had a distinctively bluesy tinge anchored by Sparks' own guitar, a comparatively unusual lead instrument in bluegrass, where the triad of mandolin, banjo, and fiddle had defined the musical texture since the genre's...
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Special Delivery, Larry Sparks
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