Lonnie Holley & Minton Sparks
515-B North McDonough St.
Decatur, GA, 30030
Doors 5:00 PM / Show 6:00 PM
Watch & Listen
Lonnie Holley was born on February 10, 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama. From the age of
five, Holley worked various jobs: picking up trash at a drive-in movie theatre, washing
dishes, and cooking at Disney World. As a child, he lived in a whiskey house across from the
state fairgrounds, a state run juvenile home, and finally was reunited with his natural born
family at the age of 14. His early life was chaotic and Holley was never afforded the pleasure
of a real childhood.
Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art
and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious
curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture,
photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found
materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with
cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate
places, people, and events. His work is now in collections of major museums throughout the
country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House
Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in- residence with the
Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s
Holley did not start making and performing music in a studio nor does his creative process
mirror that of the typical musician. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and
morph and evolve with every event, concert, and recording. In Holley’s original art
environment, he would construct and deconstruct his visual works, repurposing their
elements for new pieces. This often led to the transfer of individual narratives into the new
work creating a cumulative composite image that has depth and purpose beyond its original
singular meaning. The layers of sound in Holley’s music, likewise, are the result of decades
of evolving experimentation.
Holley’s music caught the attention of Matt Arnett, whose father has been Holley’s primary
art patron since the 1980s. In 2006, Matt organized the first professional recordings
of Holley’s music. In 2010, Arnett set up a performance by Holley at Grocery on Home. One
of the people in attendance was Lance Ledbetter, founder and owner of the record label
Dust-to- Digital. Deeply moved by Holley’s keyboard playing and singing, Ledbetter
signed Holley to his record label. Soon after, Holley found himself in the studio again, and in
2010 and 2011, a number of studio sessions ensued. The result was the album “Just Before
Music.” More recordings are continuing to be made to celebrate and to document one of
America’s most compelling musicians. In 2013, “Keeping a Record of It,” Holley’s second
record was released. In early 2014, Holley recorded again with Richard Swift, acclaimed
musician and producer at his studio, National Freedom, in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
In addition to the studio sessions, Holley began touring as a musician. In August and
September of 2013, Holley toured the West Coast with Deerhunter. That tour was followed
by a tour of the East Coast with Bill Callahan, and in November and December of
2013, Holley had his first tour through Western Europe (Spain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark,
Belgium, The Netherlands, England, and France). Holley has been joined on stage by a
variety of musicians, including members of Deerhunter, Black Lips, The War on Drugs,
Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Bon Iver, Gang Gang Dance, Julia Holter, Megafaun, as
well as Ben Sollee, Steve Gunn, Jim White, Sinkane, Stevie Nistor, Jenny Hval, Marshall
Ruffin, Daniel Lanois, Brian Blade, Mammane Sani, and Bill Callahan. In 2013, Holley’s first
records were named to a number of critics’ Top Records of the Year lists, including The
Washington Post (#4) and The Chicago Sun Times (#2).
In 2014, Holley continued to tour, completing another tour of Europe (Belgium, Norway,
England, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France) and a USA/Canada tour with Daniel
Lanois. Also in 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that they had acquired
three sculptures by the acclaimed artist and musician.
His visual art has been displayed in numerous museums and galleries around the United
States. In the late summer, 2015, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art opened
Lonnie Holley: Something to Take My Place, accompanied by the first significant
monograph of the artist’s work.
In 2015, Holley recorded music for the film Five Nights in Maine (David Oyelowo, Diane
Wiest, Rosie Perez), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has
its theatrical release in the summer of 2016.
Holley continues to make visual art and music.
"The closest thing America has to a prophet."––Noisey
In the South, there are certain figures that take on a mythological air. They’re the folks that only have one name below the Mason-Dixon—the Dollys, the Garths, the Rebas of the world. They feel like family even though you’ve never met them; they make you rethink your patch of ground by telling you about theirs; they conjure some old storm inside you that you didn’t even know was brewing.
Nashville speaker-songwriter Minton Sparks follows in the tradition of these legends—but on her own terms. She recently made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium.
Though her spoken word/honky-tonk hybrid performances elicit whoops, hollers, and general hell-raising from beer-swilling good ole boys and latte-sipping intellectuals alike; and though she’s been dubbed everything from the lovechild of Flannery O’Connor and Hank Williams to a backwoods Lucinda Williams, no one knows exactly what or who Minton Sparks really is.
On the one hand, she’s a decorated poet, playwright, and author that’s been invited to prestigious events like the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and Berry College’s Southern Women Writer’s Conference (alongside Maya Angelou and Kaye Gibbons). On the other hand, she’s a blue-collar troubadour that’s performed in the American Songbook Series at the Lincoln Center, appeared at the venerable Old Towne School of Folk Music, and served as teller-in-residence at the Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival.
Whatever she is and whatever she’s doing, it’s working: Minton’s been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC’s Bob Harris Show, and WoodSong’s Old-Time Radio. She’s also shared the stage with country and folk heavyweights like Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Nanci Griffith, and Punch Brothers.
A Tennessee native, former social worker, divinity school dropout, first-ever Spoken Word Award recipient at the Conference on Southern Literature, and founder of The Nashville Writing and Performance Institute, Minton established herself as Nashville’s first non-singing country singer with the release of 2001’s Middlin’ Sisters, where she had a chance to collaborate with the legendary Waylon Jennings.
Since then, she’s released two studio follow-ups—This Dress (2003), featuring a blues cut with Keb’ Mo. and Sin Sick (2005), where the Punch Brother’s Chris Thile haunted her words with his otherworldly mandolin—and a live record cut at Nashville’s Vahalla of bluegrass, The Station Inn.
On her first three efforts, Minton tells the hilarious, humble, and heartbreaking tales of characters like Giddy Up Gibson and Wicked Widow Pots over earnest finger-picking and gospel piano. They’re vienna sausage vignettes that not only speak to Minton’s storytelling, but to her authenticity as a true southerner as well. As John Prine aptly put it, “Minton Sparks is a great storyteller—humanity with humidity, all told humorously with humility.”
On her fifth release, Gold Digger, Minton breaks new (swampy) ground without losing an ounce of the hands-on-hip attitude of her earlier releases—and she’s enlisted legendary talent to help.
Side A sees longtime Minton bandleader and guitarist John Jackson—a seasoned road warrior who has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne, and Tom Jones—channeling Muddy Waters and John Fogerty instead of his usual Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins. If Jackson was picking and grinning on Minton’s previous releases, he’s grunting and moaning on Gold Digger. When paired with Minton, he completes the duo’s country-fried Mick and-Keith dynamic.
Gold Digger’s first half might take you to the Delta, but Side B takes you on an airboat up to Nola. Guitarist Joe McMahan’s soulful Dixieland licks are accompanied by David Jaques (upright bass), and Shad Cobb (fiddle and banjo), making for what Nashville Scene and Rolling Stone Country contributor Jewly Hight describes as a “sinewy swing.”
Combine both halves of Gold Digger with production from the late, great Brian Harrison and stories about silicon-enhanced sugar-daddy hunters, and you’ve got a regular rural based opus. Just consider it another chapter in the already vibrant mythology of Minton Sparks.