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About the video
Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers on The Dailey and Vincent Show,
performing "John Deere Tractor":.
About the artist
Larry Sparks has said that he's the youngest old-timer around, and the
self-description is an apt one.
Emerging from the Stanley Brothers' Clinch Mountain Boys band, Sparks carried
on with the sounds created by bluegrass music's first generation. His style was
no knock-off, however; it had a distinctively bluesy tinge anchored by Sparks'
own guitar; a comparatively unusual lead instrument in bluegrass, where the
triad of mandolin, banjo, and fiddle had defined the musical texture since the
genre's early days.
Around 1970, Sparks formed his own band, the Lonesome Ramblers, and it's a
rare bluegrass festival or concert series that hasn't played host to Sparks
multiple times in the years since. Numerous younger bluegrass players have
passed through the Lonesome Ramblers or appeared on Sparks' many
recordings, Ricky Skaggs and fiddler Stuart Duncan being only two of the
best-known examples. Sparks recorded for various labels in the '70s and early
'80s, moving to Rebel in 1982 for the Dark Hollow LP. It was the first in a long
string of recordings that sold steadily and won critical acclaim; most of Sparks'
Rebel catalogue remained in print in the early 2000s. Along the way, Sparks
made several songs into bluegrass standards.
He unearthed an obscure folk-rock composition by Lawrence Hammond entitled
"John Deere Tractor" and turned it into a perennial anthem of discontented rural
folk adrift in the big city; the cover of the song by the Judds on their Love Can
Build a Bridge album of 1990 was likely traceable to Sparks' own numerous
performances. the Stanley Brothers' "Goin' Up Home (To Live in Green
Pastures)" was one of several gospel pieces that every parking-lot pickup band
wanted to learn after hearing Sparks sing it, and Sparks tended to focus on
gospel in his own numerous compositions as well.
Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers barely slowed down in the 1990s, releasing
several albums over the course of the decade, and 2003's The Coldest Part of
Winter showed him in undiminished form.