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Sparky Parker: In the Dark

Jim Trageser By

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Crafting the perfect riff has been the goal of every blues and rock guitarist since Jimi Hendrix first began channeling Albert King. Welding a memorable theme to jaw-dropping technique is the surest way for a budding guitarist to elevate his or her reputation.

Houston, Texas' Sparky Parker's debut opens with one of those defining riffs—a deep-plush, aural carpet which feels as if it could just go on indefinitely without ever getting old. Wah-wah (or at least something that sounds like a wah-wah), feedback and all kinds of distortion give it an immediately identifiable hook—and yet Parker's playing is tightly focused on the theme, not the effects.

If the rest of the album never surpasses that opening track, it is still an auspicious introduction to a national audience. The following nine tracks showcase a musician who melds unimpeachable taste with a deep knowledge of the blues and rock canons.

Early Steve Miller seems an obvious influence on "8 Days in the Doghouse"; Ronnie Earl had to have helped shape the playing on "Good Man;" "Sleepy Town" sounds as if it could have been taken from an outtake of an early Thin Lizzy or Wishbone Ash recording, Parker apparently laying down his own twin-guitar attack.

On a cover of the The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," Parker plays it pretty straight rather than trying to reinvent it as so many others have done (Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle)—but insightful guitar fills that nod to Keith Richards' and Mick Taylor's original lines show both respect and a sly sense of humor.

It is not a perfect debut. The remaining songs aren't particularly memorable, and Parker is still finding his way as a singer.

Nor does he have the sheer virtuosity of a Stevie Ray Vaughan or Eric Clapton. What he does have is the SRV-like ability to seamlessly meld blues and classic rock into something fans of both can appreciate. If his guitar-playing is closer to Billy F. Gibbons (or even Scott Gorham), that's not exactly an insult.

There is a ton of promise here, and enough good music to tide listeners over until he issues his sophomore effort.

Track Listing: In the Dark; This Old Thing; 8 Days in the Doghouse; Games; Sleepy Town; Good Man; Treat a Dog; Dead Flowers; Escape to Quintana; Shake Your Hips

Personnel: Eric "Sparky" Parker, lead guitar, vocals; Phillip Locke, bass; Kevin Barry, drums

Title: In the Dark | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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