The Tennessee Performing Arts Center successfully launched a groundbreaking new spoken word series featuring the wildly original Minton Sparks and a stellar line-up of guest artists, including Grammy Award-winning Rodney Crowell and on Saturday, May 13, Minton Sparks & friends @ TPAC: the voices of today will present the final show in the season at 7:30 p.m. in the intimate Johnson Theater. Often compared to leading contemporary Southern writers, Sparks is a writer, poet and storyteller backed by musicians as she paints vivid pictures of people and places in the South with her words.
For every performance in the four-show series, ticket-buyers will enjoy free appetizers in the lobby beginning at 6:30 p.m., a post-show dessert reception with the artists, and a new, reserved-seating chart for Johnson Theater that includes cabaret tables. Audience members are invited to take beverages into the theater during the performance.
Playing to sold-out crowds at Nashville night spots, Sparks has performed nationwide at universities, clubs, songwriter series, and festivals and has been featured on internationally syndicated radio.
“I really think that Nashville is ready for a good quality spoken word series,” commented Sparks in a recent interview with ‘O&AN.’ “My shows have been selling out around town and I think that those people who enjoy my work will enjoy the other talented artists from around the country who will perform in the series.”
Guest artists joining her at TPAC for the final show will include guitarist John Jackson and Rodney Crowell on May 13. In her work, Sparks celebrates her southern heritage through the voices of a variety of characters who all sound like someone she grew up around. Listeners from all areas of the country will be drawn in regardless of their background. Folks from the South will immediately recognize voices of their pasts in Sparks’ dulcet Tennessee Drawl and other people from different parts of the nation will discover that they didn’t know as much about Southerners or the South as the thought. Sparks’ incredible insight and visionary reach will inform and entertain the listener shattering common misconceptions about people in the South while affirming and celebrating Southern Culture at its best and its worst.
“My family is all in Memphis and Arkansas but we grew up in Murfeesboro and Daytona Beach so there is this really wild split in my upbringing so there are heavy doses of either Bible Belt or Drug Addict in the mix so I think that might have touched me a bit,” Sparks laughs as she talks about her lifetime in the deep south. “There is a lot of wisdom in the people who I drew my stories from. Most of them might not have had any formal education but they were very educated by their lives and the relationships they had and the land on which they lived which in its own way is as valuable as a formal education.”
Sparks’ depth and insight reaches heavily into the psychology of Southern women and sheds light on areas of thought to which many have previously never been exposed in such a way. This is no real surprise to anyone who knows Sparks’ background as a teacher of psychology for many years with a heavy focus on women’s psychology in particular.
“I really enjoy exploring how something in a woman’s life can be considered a drawback or flaw in their personality, but upon closer examination can really be seen as their primary strength.” Sparks explains of her wildly insightful and imaginative work. “Every woman that I write about even if they go off the deep end is somehow redeemed before I’m done with the story.”
Collaborating with stellar songwriters, singers and musicians, Sparks has recorded three CDs. Her debut release “Middlin’ Sisters” included cuts with Waylon Jennings and Darryl Scott. Her second CD, “This Dress,” was named best spoken word album of the year by Just Plain Folk Music Awards and listed as one of the top five “Off the Beaten Path” recordings of 2003 by the Chicago Sun-Times. Her newest CD “Sin Sick” was produced by the Grammy Award-winning Gary Paczosa and features Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile on mandolin, Steve Conn on piano, Abigail Washburn on banjo, and John Jackson on guitar.
Even if one has heard one or all of Minton Sparks’ three recordings, the true essence of her genius cannot be understood without seeing her perform live, a fact that has not been lost on the show goers of the three previous sold out performances.
“It really is a whole other animal when I’m onstage,” commented Sparks. “You really have to see it to believe it.”
Minton Sparks & friends @ TPAC: the voices of today is recommended for mature audiences. Tickets, including appetizers and desserts, are $25 for standard reserved seats and $30 for cabaret tables. Tickets are available at the TPAC Box Office (Downtown or at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in The Mall at Green Hills), online at www.tpac.org, or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 615/255-ARTS (2787). For more information on Minton Sparks please visit www.mintonsparks.com.