Review: Sparky Parker shines Texas light on ‘In The Dark’

Sparky Parky

Sparky Parker’s “In The Dark” is a Texas-sized body of great blues.
Go Polaris Studio

Texas has a seemingly endless well of bluesmen to inspire a guitarist, but Sparky Parker interestingly cites Chicago’s Magic Sam as an influence.

A Houston resident, Parker channels Magic Sam on his song “This Old Thing” on his fantastic album, “in The Dark,” released Sept. 13, 2019.

Magic Sam was one of the numerous Mississippi-born artists who migrated to North. He died at the age of 32 in 1969 shortly after recording just two albums. It’s fair to call him an obscure musician, but he’s revered by blues aficionados, who marvel at his harmonic vocals over guitar chord melodies.

Parker, 31, has been playing professionally ever since he finished high school, starting out by fronting a rock band and later with a blues band, Mojofromopolis. He’s also been a sideman with Vanessa Collier and Diunna Greenleaf. He continues to play with the Houston rock band Funky Mustard.

Parker, bassist Phillip Lock and drummer Kevin Berry have been a blues trio since 2012. They’ve played many of the songs on “In The Dark” for years. And it sure shows on this flawless album.

It’s exciting to discover compelling talent. Parker is a classic triple threat: He’s a virtuoso with a Gibson Firebird guitar, the same ax wielded by Texan Johnny Winter. Parker is a smooth, confident singer and an excellent story-telling songwriter, with seven of his album’s 10 tracks being originals. The covers are ambitious: “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones, Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and a slowed down, groovy “Treat A Dog,” made famous by Bobby Blue Bland.

Most importantly, Parker delivers with emotion. He’s clearly a student of the blues.

The song “Games” is a nod to Guitar Slim and his 1954 classic “Things I Used to Do.” Credited as an electric guitar pioneer, Guitar Slim learned his chops from Texans Gatemouth Brown and T-Bone Walker.

There are so many fiery blues guitarists who came out of Texas, including Freddie King, Albert Collins and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Add Sparky Parker to the litany.

— Tim Parsons

  • Sparky Parker
    ‘In The Dark’
    Release: Sept. 13, 2019
    Highlight tracks: ‘Sleepy Town,’ ‘This Old Thing,’ ‘Good Man’

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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