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Larry Sparks
The Coldest Part Of Winter
Review By Steven Stone


Larry Sparks The Coldest Part Of Winter  Larry Sparks churns out music that can best be described as "hardcore bluegrass." The longest song on his latest CD The Coldest Part Of Winter runs 3:12. This economy of motion is the diametric opposite of the jam-band phenomena, where a single tune can seem to go on for eons. Larry Spark’s lack of artifice and self-aggrandizing hoopla epitomizes what great bluegrass is about – strong songs delivered in a direct manner.

Accompanied by his regular band made up of Scott Napier on mandolin, Josh McMurray on banjo, and Mathew Madden on bass, this self-produced CD features special guest two-time IBMA fiddle player of the year, Michael Cleveland on fiddle. With five songs penned by Marshall Warwick, three by David Norris, and one original gospel number by Larry himself, this album demonstrates that a traditional bluegrass album doesn't have to be populated by songs that have already been done a thousand times. Mandolinist Scott Napier’s original instrumental Parkway Blues features his encyclopedic collection of Bill Monroe influenced licks coupled with Larry Sparks solid rhythm guitar playing, Josh McMurray’s blues inflected banjo, and Michael Cleveland’s soaring fiddle.

Recorded at the Jordan recording studio in Covington, Kentucky, the sound on The Coldest Part Of Winter is as clean and direct as the performances. While it isn’t sonically flashy, the recording is solid and lucid, with each part having its own sonic space and physical location. Anyone who considers themselves seriously into bluegrass should add The Coldest Part Of Winter to their short list of must listen, must own albums of 2004.




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