Imagine, if you will, Flannery O’Connor and the ghost of Hank Williams having an affair that results in the birth of an illegitimate child . . . . I have seen Minton Sparks. And if she’s not the ghost child of the woman who wrote Wise Blood and the man who sang ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive,’ then cotton doesn’t grow in a cotton field.— Marshall Chapman, writer for Garden & Gun
Minton Sparks is a wildly original poet, performance artist, novelist, teacher, and essayist born in a Tennessee college town and raised among her Southern family in and around Arkansas. She earned degrees from the University of the South and Vanderbilt University. Her appearances range from the prestigious Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival all the way to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Minton’s books, Desperate Ransom and White Lightning, and her writing have received wide acclaim from NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and BBC’sBob Harris Show. Her performances have enthralled audiences across the United States and Europe. Her DVD, Open Casket, and three CD’s, which feature blues sensation Keb Mo’, the legendary Waylon Jennings, and the internationally acclaimed Irish songstress Maura O’Connell, are sought after worldwide. She has appeared on stage with Ben Folds, John Prine, Punch Brothers, Jacob Dylan, Rosanne Cash, and country legend Pam Tillis. Minton was also chosen to perform at an exclusive TED.com event on Healthcare and the Arts in Nashville, Tennessee.
In addition to writing and performing, Minton teaches a writing/performance workshop, Create Your Story, at universities and professional organizations across the country. She recently taught at Summer Fishtrap in Enterprise, Oregon, and was selected in 2015 as a Fellow at the Vanderbilt Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy. This year, she will be an artist in residence at the Banff Performing Arts Center.
Accompanist John Jackson
John Jackson, Minton’s musical accompanist, is a brilliant guitarist and no stranger to the world of poetry and music. He played in Bob Dylan’s band for six years, 1991-97. He also was part of Lucinda Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” Grammy winning tour, as well as Shelby Lynne’s Grammy winning “I am Shelby Lynn” tour. Jackson did a stint on Broadway performing in the Twyla Tharp/Bob Dylan play, “The Times They Are ‘a Changin‘.
Minton Sparks performs “Back of the Bus” at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, TN. The performance was part of her “Gold Digger” CD Release Show on November 11, 2014. ©2014 Minton Sparks.
The official music video for Minton Sparks’ title track “Gold Digger”. The new record was released in fall 2014. ©2014 Minton Sparks.
Minton Sparks performing “Her Purse” at Music City Roots live from the Loveless Cafe on April 21, 2010.
Minton Sparks performing “Fill Her UP” at Music City Roots live from the Loveless Cafe on April 21, 2010.
- Opening act for:
- Punch Brothers
- Nanci Griffith
- Ben Folds
- John Prine
- Performed as part of the Grand Ole Opry (Ryman Auditorium, December 2014). Other performers of the evening included Marty Stuart and Dierks Bentley.
- American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center
appearing with Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell
- 2010 Americana Music Awards Show
- TEDxNashville, “Art+Science: The Future of Health”
- Jonesborough International Storytelling Festival
Featured Teller & Teller in Residence
- Working Class Women’s Writer’s Symposium
Vanderbilt University with Dorothy Allison
- Southern Women Writer’s Conference Berry College with Maya Angelou, Kaye Gibbons, Jill McKorkle, Vertamae Grosvenor, Minrose Gwin, and Minnie Bruce Pratt
- Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series of Hope College
- International Art & Healthcare Conference
- The Personal Historians Conference
- National Women’s Book Conference
- NPR’s All Things Considered
- Woodsongs Old-time Radio Hour
- BBC’s Bob Harris Show
- Southern Literary Review Interview by Amy Susan Wilson, Souther Literary Review (November 30, 2015)
- “Talkin’ about the Universal Truths of the Divine Minton Sparks” by Tom Semioli, No Depression (December 16, 2014)
- “Squeezing Out Sparks: A Southern Poet Sings for Her New York City Supper” by Tom Semioli, Huffington Post (October 14, 2014)
- “Speaking Songs About the Southland” by Charlie Hickerson, Native Magazine (January 2014)
- “Minton Sparks” by Jewly Hight, Nashville Scene (August 2012)
- “Seeing Sparks” by Sarah Norris, Nashville Scene (July 2011)
- “Minton Sparks Catches Fire” by Marshall Chapman, Garden & Gun Magazine (May/June 2008)
It’s been said that no one has yet found the right term to describe Minton Sparks, but we’re pretty confident in the phrase emblazoned on the T-shirts at her merch table: “The best country music singer that doesn’t sing.” A storyteller of supernatural ability, Sparks appears with a solo accompanist, usually guitar slinger John Jackson, who provides an underpinning of her cadence, through which audiences feel earth being tilled, dirty dishes scrubbed, precious things coveted. Her characters are poor, rural, Southern and white, but with her expertly crafted humor, she makes them universal: In their blossoming, sweaty humanity, they claw back the dignity eroded by the hardships they suffer. At the venerable Station Inn, where her acclaimed live album was recorded, Sparks is perfectly in her element. The second of a three-week Wednesday night residency. 8 p.m. at The Station Inn.
— Stephen Trageser, Nashville Scene
The Nashville poet and storyteller unearthed another set of wondrous vignettes that once again drew an unforgettable picture of life in the South. Sparks has a unique niche that soulfully marries the Southern storytelling tradition with the strains of old-time music for a hybrid that is all her own.
— Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun Times
There’s no one quite like Sparks on the contemporary music scene–no one with her ability to find and describe the haunting rhythms of this world in such precise, unadorned terms.
— Performing Songwriter Magazine
Like a backwoods Lucinda Williams or Gillian Welch, or perhaps more accurately, an existentialist Jo Carol Pierce, Minton Sparks has an eye for detail and a flair for storytelling that marks her as an unmitigated original.
— No Depression Magazine
Minton Sparks cuts through jaded like a stiletto . . . . Seeing Minton Sparks perform live is like being in a room with a snake. It may or may not be poisonous, but it doesn’t matter. You’re not taking your eyes off the snake.
— Marshall Chapman, Garden & Gun Magazine
Minton Sparks sounds like my momma, my Aunt Dot, my Aunt Grace, and even a little bit like my Uncle Jack only better and wilder and heartbreakingly more powerful.
— Dorothy Allison
Minton Sparks is the most fully realized writer and performing artist I’ve come across in years” Her work is a beautiful blend of humor, intelligence and compassion. When I grow up I want to be like Minton Sparks.
— Award winning songwriter, Rodney Crowell
[Sin Sick] is humanity with humidity, all told humorously with humility – and just what the doctor ordered.
— John Prine
Awards and Mentions
- 2016 Nashville Women’s Film Project
- 2015-2016 Vanderbilt Community Fellowship Residency
- 2015-2016 Curb Center for Art Enterprise and Public Policy Community Engagement Fellow
- 2011 Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Spoken Word
- Leonard Bernstein Fellowship
- Spoken Word Record of the Year
- Just Plain Folk Music Awards
- Top Five Off the Beaten Path Records of 2003, Chicago Sun Times
Albums/ DVD/ Novels
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