‘Minton Sparks and Friends’ return to TPAC for a second season

After selling out shows at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center last year, the wildly original Minton Sparks returns in 2007 with another series featuring a stellar lineup of guest artists. 

On Saturday, January 13, Minton Sparks & Friends @ TPAC: Smokin' Word opens with a set from singer Marshall Chapman at 7:30 p.m. in TPAC's intimate Johnson Theater.  Often compared to leading contemporary Southern writers, Sparks is a writer, poet and storyteller backed by musicians as she paints vivid pictures of people and places in the South with her words.

Compliments of the White Trash Cafe, appetizers at 6:30 p.m. and a dessert reception with the artists after the show are included in the price of the ticket. Cabaret seating, perfect for taking drinks into the theater, is available.

“We’re always looking for ways to redefine or broaden the definition of ‘performing arts’ at TPAC and the overwhelming success of last year’s series helped to do just that,” said Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC’s president and chief executive officer.  “Minton is an incredible talent who has developed a following in Nashville and nationwide and collaborates with some of the finest musicians in our city.  Johnson Theater is the perfect setting for their sound and style.  Audiences can see how much the artists enjoy and appreciate working together.  We're all excited to be in the position of bringing back this cutting-edge, groundbreaking series by popular demand. There's nothing else like it in Nashville.”

On the heels of success from her recent DVD release, Open Casket, Sparks plays to sold out crowds at Nashville night spots, performs nationwide at universities, clubs, songwriters series and festivals, and has been featured on internationally syndicated radio.

John Jackson, a Nashville guitarist who most recently performed in Twyla Tharp’s Broadway musical tribute to Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’, will join Sparks onstage in the TPAC series, enhancing her performance and serving as a foil to her spoken word. Jackson played with Bob Dylan for seven years and also toured with Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne.  

Marshall Chapman has recorded 10 critically-acclaimed solo albums and has written more than 300 songs, many of which have been recorded by other artists, including Jimmy Buffet, Joe Cocker, Emmylou Harris, Olivia Newton-John, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker and Wynonna, among others.  She has shared the stage with a myriad of artists, including John Prine, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Ramones. In addition to a successful music career, Chapman is a bestselling author. Her first book, Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller (St. Martin’s Press) was a 2004 SEBA bestseller, and 2004 Southern Book Critics Circle Award and SEBA Book Award finalist.

Joining Sparks on stage February 24 is singer-songwriter Steve Conn. The son of well-known swing violinist “Peanut” Conn, Steve Conn is a two-time Grammy Award nominee – one for his harmonica, piano and saxophone work with BeauSoleil, the other for his accordion work with Arlo Guthrie. He spent two years as musical director for E-Town, a weekly National Public Radio variety show, and has worked with many great artists, including James Taylor, Michelle Shocked, Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, Maura O’Connell, Emmylou Harris and others. Conn’s most recent album is his self-titled 2003 release. 

The special guest artists for April 14 are Rodney Crowell and Elizabeth Cook, with the guests for the May performance to be announced.

In addition to his work with Emmylou Harris, Booker T. Jones and Roseanne Cash, among others, Rodney Crowell’s recordings include his breakthrough Diamonds and Dirt, which generated an unbroken string of five #1 singles with “It’s Such a Small World” (a duet with Cash), “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” “She’s Crazy For Leavin’,” “Above and Beyond,” and “After All This Time,” winner of the Grammy Award. 

Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Cook is often described as reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. The Florida native has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry more than 100 times since March 2000, and was named one of the “Top 10 Brightest Stars of the Year” by Country Weekly

The guest artist lineup is subject to change without notice. 

Collaborating with stellar songwriters, singers and musicians, Sparks has recorded three CDs. Her debut release, Middlin’ Sisters, included cuts with Waylon Jennings and Darrell Scott. Her second CD, This Dress, was named best spoken word album of the year by Just Plain Folk Music Awards and listed as one of the top five “Off The Beaten Path” recordings of 2003 by the Chicago Sun-Times. Her latest CD, Sin Sick, was produced by Grammy Award-winning Gary Paczosa and features Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile on mandolin, Steve Conn on piano, Abigail Washburn on banjo and John Jackson on guitar. Sparks’ first book, Desperate Ransom, will be released in 2007.

Sparks’ radio credits include “Weekend Edition” on National Public Radio, “Wood Songs Old-Time Radio Hour,” Knoxville’s WDVX “Blue Plate Special” lunchtime web cast, and the Thackford Mountain Radio Show broadcast from Oxford, Mississippi. She received a master’s of education in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University and taught poetry in Tennessee schools as a recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship. An adjunct professor of psychology at Tennessee State University, she also teaches creative writing workshops. 

Minton Sparks & Friends @ TPAC: Smokin’ Word is recommended for mature audiences. Tickets, including appetizers and desserts, are $25 for standard reserved seats and $30 for cabaret tables. For tickets, visit the TPAC Box Office (Downtown or at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in The Mall at Green Hills), online at www.tpac.org, or any Ticketmaster outlet, including area Kroger locations and Macy’s. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 615/255-ARTS (2787). 

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