Jamie Sparks with his daughter, Janie, and his backwards banjo
Jamie Sparks has been announced as the new banjo player with The Dowdy Brothers, a southwest Virginia band known for their mega-traditional approach to bluegrass music, with a heavy Stanley influence.
The Stanley sound has come to Donald and Steven from their dad, Victor Dowdy, who had led The Bluegrass Brothers this past 25 years. Starting as a group featuring Victor and his brother, Robert, the younger Dowdy boys joined the show as they got older, staying on when Robert stepped aside. Known all over the US for their unapologetically hard-driving mountain bluegrass sound, The Bluegrass Brothers could set a festival site a blaze with their whoopin’ and hollerin’ music, all the more so for the contrast it provided against the smoother-sounding modern groups.
Sparks was their banjo player for the last few years of the band, providing them interesting visual bookends with one of our music’s few left handed banjo pickers on one end of the stage, and Donald Dowdy’s lefty mandolin on the other.
And now he is taking that look and sound to The Dowdy Brothers, a natural transition as Victor has decided he is through with the road.
Jamie said that it feels very natural going from one Dowdy to a couple of others.
“Well in a nutshell, I was sad to hear that Victor was ready to retire and enjoy his home life. However, I figured it was well deserved for him. It was a great run to be part of The Bluegrass Brothers for the last 6 years. I could never repay Victor for all the kindness and wisdom he had shown me. I figured amidst the pandemic the music was pretty much over with for the year, but when Steve call me and asked if I would like to play with him and Donald, I jumped at the chance not only to get back on the music scene, but to play music with two fellers I consider my family and my brothers on the road. I can’t wait to see what this run will have in store for me but I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Dowdy Brothers continue on in the style pioneered by their dad and their uncle. Ragged but right, always rough and rowdy, but highly entertaining.
They have shows starting up again in the next few months. A schedule is posted on Facebook.