There is a loose, Americana, old-time quality about this recording from Graham Sparkman. It reminds me of one of the earliest CDs I reviewed for BU, one by Fred Lantz, a recording that similarly blended old-time, bluegrass, and folk in a freewheeling ’60s sort of fashion. Comparisons to groups such as the Avett Brothers and Peter Rowan and the Nee Ningy Band also come to mind, though more for the anything-goes feel than for any musical similarity.
Sparkman plays the guitar, some mandolin, the clawhammer banjo parts, does most of the lead singing, and wrote seven of the ten songs. The only familiar song included is “Dark As A Dungeon.” He covers two others. “Dry Land Fish” is a rollicking paean to gathering friends and neighbors for a communal meal. It’s engaging until it hits a somewhat overdone “everybody sing” section featuring young children. Better is “Southern Accent,” a soft meditation on Southern speech. Both of those are characteristic of what you’ll find throughout. There is a sort of gospel-tinged opener called “Awhilda,” followed by “Manga,” about a mythical creature that roams the local mountains, followed by a story song tribute to “Campbell’s Grocery Store.” The two best, however, are the clawhammer-driven instrumental “Flight Of The Limb Chicken,” which has an unusual rhythmic twist and a nice melodic line, and “Hazard In The Autumn.” The latter is by far the standout track; a light, lilting, ’60s-jazz look at the seasons in and around Hazard, Ky. The setting is near perfect and the imagery is well-written.
Guesting with Sparkman and several local musicians on this intriguing recording are Andy Leftwich, Rob Ickes, and Scott Vestal. (grahamsparkman.bandcamp.com)BW