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Larry Sparks

Special Delivery – 2000 (Rebel)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Larry Sparks

Larry Sparks rarely disappoints. Though only in his early 50's, he is one of the masters of bluegrass. He has developed and honed a musical style that has served him well for more than 30 years, dating back to his days in Ralph Stanley's band.

His new album carries on the style and tradition that his fans have come to expect, including his unmistakably, distinctive vocals, backed by a simple, yet driving instrumental sound. Sparks has a knack for finding good songs from good writers and making them his own. Here, he shines on tunes from bluegrass writers Gary Ferguson ("Timberline" and "The Undelivered Message") and Pete Goble/Leroy Drumm ("Colleen Malone") Showing his country music influences, Sparks renders wonderful renditions of Hank Williams' "California Zephyr" and Jimmie Davis' classic, "Be Nobody's Darlin' But Mine." Also a superb guitar player, Sparks and his band shine on instrumentals "San Antonio Rose," and "Around The Carousel," written by his mandolin player, Scott Napier. "Snow Covered Mound," a song Sparks performed with Ralph Stanley in the late '60's, rounds out the album.

This recording reflects Sparks' on-stage style very well. Armed with his guitar and backed only by mandolin, banjo and bass, there's not a lot of flash here. Sparks is a song stylist. Though sometimes under-rated, this album helps to remind us that he's still one of the best in the business.