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Minton Sparks

THIS DRESS • Minton Sparks

For the growing number of us who enjoyed, indeed, marveled at Minton's debut Middlin' Sisters, it's clear now that it was only chapter one of a brilliant saga.

Because I've had the pleasure of seeing Minton Sparks perform live on several occasions, I can't think of her now without picturing her buck dancing. At her recent sold out show at the Dark Horse Theater here in Nashville, I heard she'd busted her kneecap building a snowman with her kids, and showed up in a walker. She had her purse velcroed to the contraption, and I heard she used it to buck dance anyway, and days later she was still paying for it.

But that's the deal. It's even a lot more than just great southern hillbilly poetry on steroids. The genius of Minton Sparks is breathing life into the past and blowing it into the present, inhaling the hills of her childhood and the childhoods of her kin, and exhaling it onto the page and off the stage. City and country folk alike, she's knocking 'em dead all the way to New York City.

What makes the humorous and captivating poetry of Milton Sparks so damn accessible is that she has fabulous musicians backing her up, in ways that are so laid back and funky that it's easy to just tap your foot and tune in closely to the pictures she's painting. Portraits of her gas pumpin mama in the Esso ball cap, the dance caller at the Marco Polo Park, or her mother's dangerous driving habits in "Mama Flies A Car."

Producer Steve Conn plays the world class piano for which he's well known on a quartet of cuts, and pump organ on another. Minton's live foil Rob Jackson plays a trio of songs on guitar, no banjo on this record. He's great, so inside the material. On slide guitar, Keb 'Mo makes a very sharp contribution on "Ambulance Chasers," excellent. Maura O'Connell sings sad and lovely a cappella behind Minton on two, and Tammy Rogers is just kicking ass on the fiddle for a pair of cuts, I'd love to see her show up at a gig sometime.

You're gonna see this hillbilly poet on TV, mark my words. She's gonna be famous. She's the real McCoy, bubba, check her out on the Listen page, and buy her CDs here. • FG

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