Music News & Reviews

Bluegrass icon Larry Sparks returns to Clay City's Meadowgreen Park

Quintet Greensky Bluegrass will perform Monday at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.
Quintet Greensky Bluegrass will perform Monday at WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.

Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, The Kirby Knob Boys

7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane in Clay City. $15. (606) 663-9008.

Is Larry Sparks indeed a lonesome rambler? Let's examine the evidence.

In a bluegrass career that goes back more than 45 years, Sparks has kept company with some of the music's foremost champions. An Ohio native with a family boasting strong Kentucky roots in Jackson County, Sparks was hired by The Stanley Brothers in 1964. In late 1966, after the death of Carter Stanley, Ralph Stanley took the reins and promoted Sparks to chief vocalist. That lineup included bassist Melvin Goins, who will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame this spring.

So much for being lonesome. But a rambler? That's another story.

Sparks formed the first version of his Lonesome Ramblers band in 1969 and has not turned back. His quietly authoritative singing, which remains the foundation of the Ramblers' heavily gospel-infused string music, has been honored frequently by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Much of his most recent recognition came in 2005, when he took IBMA awards for male vocalist — for the second consecutive year —and album of the year — for 40, which was cut when Sparks' career hit the four-decade mar).

Sparks will ramble back this weekend to a venue where he will be anything but lonesome. He has been the headline performer in early February for years at Clay City's Meadowgreen Park Music Hall. He performs again Saturday, with The Kirby Knob Boys opening.

Green and Blue

A busy week ahead begins Monday with the weekly taping of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour and a bill featuring Greensky Bluegrass and Eden Brent.

Greensky is a bluegrass quintet from the unlikely string-music metropolis of Kalamazoo, Mich. The band, bred on traditional bluegrass inspirations, has become a huge favorite with jam-band audiences thanks to co-billed concerts with Ralph Stanley, Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, The Avett Brothers, Keller Williams and others.

Sending WoodSongs to the blues will be Brent, a Mississippi-born keyboardist who has garnered as much acclaim during her 16-year recording career for her blues and soul-savvy singing as for her boogie woogie-fortified playing. (6:45 p.m. $10. (859) 252-8888.

Less or Moore

■ Buster's, 899 Manchester Street, gets rocking Tuesday with Florida's Less Than Jake. The quintet should supply an ample dose of spring-break attitude to the dead of winter with a party-savvy blend of ska grooves and post-punk drive. Call 'em fun. Call 'em goofy. Call 'em silly, irreverent or askew. It's the celebratory mood that keeps Less Than Jake's music in motion. Plan on a full night, though. The Supervillains, Off With Their Heads and The Dopamines will open. (8 p.m. $15 in advance, $17 day-of-show. (859) 368-8871.

■ Moving on to Thursday, we have Kentucky folk stylist Daniel Martin Moore celebrating the spiritually inclined music from his new album, In the Cool of the Day, at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. Moore gave a preview of the recording and the performance last weekend at CD Central, with help from mandolinist Joel Runyan and pianist and Cool of the Day co-producer Daniel Joseph Dorff. Moore will double the group's size to a sextet for Thursday's performance. "It will be six people playing really quietly," he told the CD Central crowd. Moore discusses his Cool of the Day music and the inspirations behind it in Sunday's Life + Arts section. (9 p.m. $8. (859) 259-2754.