Let Him Lead You
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
Of all the things that have remained consistent throughout the forty-plus year career of bluegrass legend Larry Sparks—from his opulent hair and distinctive sideburns, sharp clothing, and gentlemanly manner to his gorgeous voice, the maintenance of a nuanced, talented band, and ability to select just the rightsongs for his projects—what has remained perhaps most steadfast is his faith in the Lord and the importance of singing His praises.
As they have previously, Rebel has scoured their vaults to select 14 gospel songs from the extensive Sparks catalog. Featuring a number of performances rarely encountered, the material stretches from 1974’s “I Am the Man, Thomas,” taken from the excellent King album The Footsteps of Tradition (featuring Dave Evans, Ralph Meadows, and Wendy Miller) through to the mid-80s (represented by several songs including five from 1986’s Gonna Be Movin’) and ending at 2000 with a chestnut from the Special Delivery album, “Snow Covered Mound.”
Ricky Skaggs makes a couple of appearances, most demonstrably on the set closer “When My Time Comes to Go;” on this lively 1976 King cut, Skaggs is double-tracked on mandolin and fiddle and also contributes tenor. Skaggs also plays mandolin on 1977’s “Battle of Armageddon” where Chubby Wise lends his impressive fiddling to the mix.
Whether taking a solo lead, singing within a rich quartet, or singing an a cappella number in a trio, these selections provide ample evidence—not that such was needed—that Larry Sparks has few peers when delivering bluegrass gospel.
I love that Rebel has taken care with this compilation, but am not surprised; the label has, especially of late, proven pride in their recording legacy. With just more than half of the selections making their CD debut, Rebel has provided true value within this inexpensive set.
Add in Chris Jones’ fine notes—he writes with the same depth as he speaks—and it may be time to supplement some of those cherished old cassettes. Let Him Lead You is an excellent collection of Sparks-styled bluegrass gospel.