Sparks' latest album, Special Delivery (Rebel), is not only one of the best records he's ever made but a high-water mark for bluegrass at the turn of the century. The music is spare, free of gimmicks and extraneous leads, and every arrangement homes in on the stories the singer tells. Those narratives may draw on stock images of cabins, hills, mountains and farms, but the voice makes them so much more than nostalgic cutouts. Even if you've lived in the city all your life, the images of these songs just might reflect back a self you never would have known without them. That's the unique magic of Larry Sparks' voice.
"I don't mean this to take anything away from anyone," Sparks says, "but there was never really anyone I patterned myself after. The energy comes from within me."