Steeped in the minute details of life in the south, Nashville poet Minton Sparks picks up here where she left off on 2001's Middlin' Sisters: smack dab in the heart of rural America of indeterminate vintage. There's a matter-of-fact fatalism in Sparks' flat, nasal readings of the songs -- really, they're spoken word pieces with musical accompaniment -- that captures the essence (and the weirdness) of growing up dirt poor, isolated, alienated.
Almost immediately you'll begin reading between the lines of Sparks' narratives, filling in the bits she has cleverly left to the imagination. Soon, vivid pictures emerge, of characters (Aunt Evvy and Uncle Sam in "Bird In A Cage"), of geography, of an entire emotional landscape.
"Killin' Time" may be the most carefully drawn song here. Tautly written -- no word is out of place -- its chilling story of death unfolds without premonition. But "Ambulance Chasers" is the most compelling track; with Keb' Mo' providing hypnotic, John Lee Hooker-type guitar, Sparks weds gothic prose to delta blues in the story of a young girl seeing her first dead body.
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.