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Larry Sparks gives a "Special Delivery"

By John Lupton, November 2000

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He pauses for a few moments to put into speech what seems to come to him effortlessly in song. "Those songs are about times gone by, and I think people like to hear stuff like that."

For all of his association with the Stanley legacy, Sparks has continued to be very much his own man for more than three decades. He simply knows what he wants his music to sound like and doesn't much care if it matches up with whatever might be trendy at the moment.

"You've got to please yourself first."

He's also not afraid to part ways with the way things have always been done to make sure a song is done the Sparks way. The new album features a version of the late Gov. Jimmie Davis' classic love ballad "Be Nobody's Darling But Mine."

But where just about every previous rendition has matched the moderate, waltz time of Davis' original, Sparks finally decided to try a different approach and ended up with an uptempo, 4/4 version that highlights not only his own voice, but the instrumental talents of his band as well.

"I really wanted to do it the other way, you know, like Jimmie Davis did it, but if I did it that way, that style, I don't think it would have worked. It would have taken me out of my own needed to be done with some uptempo to work with my style of singing."

As he talks about "Special Delivery," he can't quite hide the suggestion of a streak of the perfectionist in himself - "there's always something you think you could have done better" - but he gives his new album a good chance to be something special indeed.

"I'm pleased with the album...hopefully it will be an album that will be a solid one for me, like the 'John Deere Tractor' album. This one has a good feel to it. It's a natural feel, there's nothing gimmicked with it. It's all right down the line, pure stuff."

Maybe it's not quite as lonesome anymore out on the road as it used to be, but there's plenty of rambling left in store for Larry Sparks and his Lonesome Ramblers. Some times have been better than others, but he hasn't regretted for a single moment the decision to make music his life's work.

"It's never been that tough for me...I've always been able to make it, and I feel very fortunate and thankful for that, because it's all I've ever done. This is my trade, this is what I do best, and it's always been good to me...if it don't work, you got to make it work, and it'll be good to you, but a lot of work, a lot of time goes into it."

After 30 years as one of its most highly regarded practitioners, Sparks sees a growing stature and respect for bluegrass and its performers, and a brighter future ahead for the music.

"Bluegrass has never had the publicity, the push, the promotion that (mainstream) country music has had, and it's still that's better now than ever, but we've always taken the back seat to country music, and I think things are changing. Nothing wrong with country music, I like country music - I like all kinds of music - but I think bluegrass is coming around. It's turning around for the better. It's bigger now than ever."

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