Driving home yesterday from the Bristol Bluegrass Spring Fest, I was struck by one overwhelming sentiment. What a joy it is to live in a world where Larry Sparks is a superstar.
It may not be true everywhere, everytime – I’m sure Mr. Sparks can make it to the store and the post office unmolested – but in many US markets, when he’s on stage, he’s Elvis. And Saturday afternoon in Bristol, VA was one of those times.
Promoters Jeff Brown and Randall Hibbitts couldn’t have forced any more chairs into the Holiday Inn ballroom, and nearly every one was occupied when Sparks did his late afternoon set. The audience had already enjoyed powerful music from Adkins & Loudermilk, Blue Highway and Lonesome River Band, and they had responded with enthusiasm. But when Sparks hit the stage, he could do no wrong.
The crowd reacted to every move he made, with men and women alike squealing with delight to each gyration of his guitar, and every accent in his singing. They wanted to hear his big hits, and he doled them out across a nearly hour-long set, with requests hollered out between songs without fail. He was in his element, and delivered what the folks had come to see in spades. Kentucky Girl, John Deere Tractor, Tennessee 1949, and many others lit the fuse, and believe me when I say that the Elvis comparison is apt. If The King had popped up in the room, I think people would have shushed him to hear Sparks.
The distinctive Larry Sparks sound is many things – soulful, sincere, rich, and passionate – but there is an undefinable “something” else in his voice that defies description. It was on display Saturday afternoon when he sang I Just Want To Thank You Lord, and when Judy Marshall came out to duet with him on Going Up Home To Live In Green Pastures.
He was mobbed afterwards in the vendor area, and he sat right there the rest of the evening talking to all comers.
Let it be said loud and long: Larry Sparks is the man!
All the music at Spring Fest over the weekend was top notch, as was the service at the Holiday Inn. Put this one on your schedule for 2016.
Here are a few photos taken over last Friday and Saturday by Jessica Boggs.