Let me say now that I love the acoustic guitar. I’ve plucked at one for about fifteen years myself, though I’m still a woefully inefficient player, but I love it. There is something about the sound of an expertly played acoustic guitar that appeals to me much more than just about any other instrument. This personal caveat out of the way, let me now introduce to you the fine musical album of Tim Sparks, One String Leads to Another.
This is an outstanding album. Now that this declaration is out of the way, let me tell you why.
Over the years I have grown to realize that a lot of music written and played solely for the acoustic guitar is without soul. Just last month I reviewed Peter Finger’s newest album, Open Strings, and found myself particularly unmoved by the virtuosity thereon. This is common in the genre, at least to my ears. Many players lose sight of what they’re saying in exchange for the amazingly complex and accurately played songs they create; they leave out the heart in exchange for soulless genius.
Not so with Tim Sparks. In the past Mr. Sparks has covered many different styles of music, from classical to jazz, middle-eastern to celtic, proving that he is an eclectic magician with the instrument, but on One String Leads to Another he finds himself back at home—he’s originally from North Carolina—and his musical roots show for the entirety of the album. One String Leads to Another has a distinctly country and blues flavor, but it does not exchange Mr. Sparks’ genius for the average country lick or blues rhythm.
As just one example, let me describe to you the beauty and wonder of “Elegy for Max.” The piece is a personal Elegy for his father. Here are the liner notes for this instrumental, Tim explaining in his own words the origins of the impetus for “Elegy for Max”:
I went home to North Carolina a few years ago when my father was dying. The night he passed away, there was a freak ice storm, knocking out power in half the state. To my amazement, the undertaker made it through the ice and snow, (southerners are notoriously bad drivers in even the slightest wintry conditions). In the early hours, my brother and I helped wheel him out to the hearse. The trees were all sagging and owed under the ice, and in the cold night air the whole world seemed to mourn.
The mourning of the world is perfectly encapsulated in the three short minutes of “Elegy for Max.” In your mind’s eye you can picture the trees weighted down by snow and ice, their aching curves as they are forced to reach for the ground, and you can picture the snow in their faces as they make their way to the hearse, the sullen smattering of white upon the undertakers black jacket, the crunch of the snow, and the sadness and tears that surely must have accompanied the two brothers out into the snow with their breathless father.
Pick this album up, even if you’ve never bothered listening to the beautiful voice of six acoustic strings—you won’t regret it.