Then and Now

Bound to Ride: The Best of Larry Sparks (Rebel)

I Don't Regret a Mile (Sparks Music)

Larry Sparks

By Bob Mitchell

Spring showers bring May flowers and the beginning of bluegrass festival season. This month's showers also provide bluegrass fans with two outstanding releases from one of the industry's most respected artists, Larry Sparks. My cup is overflowing with auditory satisfaction. Both of these recordings are excellent.

Fortunately, the Rebel vaults are filled with solid gold bluegrass selections that are frequently shared with the public. In fact, I can't recall a single compilation of "the best of" CDs that has not been first rate listening.

This release is no exception. Fourteen tracks have been culled from previously released Rebel and King albums: John Deere Tractor, Blue Sparks, Silver Reflections, The Coldest Part of Winter, You Could have Called and Sparklin' Bluegrass. A short list of musical highlights includes "Tennessee 1949," "I'd Like to be a Train," "A Face in the Crowd," "Don't Neglect the Rose," "Imitation of the Blues," "Just Lovin' You" and "Blue Virginia Blues."

And it's essential to take the next step and note that after 45 years in the bluegrass spotlight, Sparks (IBMA vocalist of the Year for 2004 and 2005) is making some of the best music of his career.

Proof can be found in the all-gospel release I Don't Regret a Mile, the first CD on Sparks' new label. His vocals are seasoned and soulful especially on "If God Came Tomorrow," and the title track. His guitar work is powerful and expressive on "Jesus Walks Ahead of Me," and "What Kind of Man.

For more information go to www.larrysparks.com.