Sparky Parker – In the Dark
Self-Release – 2019
10 tracks; 41 minutes
Eric ‘Sparky’ Parker is a guitarist/vocalist from Houston, Texas, and this is his second album with his trio: Phillip Lock on bass and Kevin Berry on drums, with keys added to seven of the ten tracks by William Gorman. The album was recorded and mixed by Rock Romano whose work is often heard on Connor Ray releases. Sparky wrote seven of the songs, alongside covers of songs written by or made famous by The Stones, Bobby Bland and Slim Harpo.
The Texas blues-rock feel is particularly evident on “This Old Thing” which shows the influence of SRV but Sparky shows us a range of styles with “8 Days In The Doghouse”, an early highlight with its bouncing beat, solid bass and ringing country-tinged guitar, while the title track finds Sparky playing the core riff on slide. “Games” uses the tune of Guitar Slim’s “The Things I Used To Do” to good effect and Sparky plays excellently here in restrained style, another winner. The pace drops for “Sleepy Town” as Sparky double-tracks his rather distorted solo over his own rhythm work before “Good Man” returns to the loping Texas feel as Sparky promotes his best features to a potential lover. The short instrumental “Escape To Quintana” rounds off the originals with some fast-paced surf style guitar.
The three covers include an energetic run through Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” which closes the album, bookending the disc with high energy performances after opener “In The Dark”. The other covers stay close to the originals: “Treat A Dog” is always good to hear and whilst few get close to Bobby Bland’s classic version it’s a song that works for most artists and that is true for Sparky too, affording listeners the opportunity to compare his version with Mike Zito’s on his 2018 album First Class Life; The Stones’ “Dead Flowers” returns Sparky to the country side of things (though when covering the Stones it might be wise to spell Mick’s name correctly!).
Sparky has a very pleasant voice which allows all the lyrics to be understood easily, plays guitar without undue excess and in a range of styles and writes most of his material, making this a pretty listenable album.