December 6, 2003
Paul Thorn returned to Nashville and the 3rd and Lindsley Bar and Grille October 4. Paul and the band were great so I donâ€™t really have anything new to say about those guys. I arrive just in time for the 10:00 showtime.
I recognize Paul and the bandâ€™s stuff on the stage so I know Iâ€™m there at about the right time (something I canâ€™t always be sure of). But Paul doesnâ€™t start at 10:00. A guitarist I donâ€™t know sets himself up. Heâ€™s got a flat top and a resonator at his disposal. Iâ€™m confused. Nothing new really.
Then a pretty, lean country girl (hey Iâ€™m a country boy, I know what Iâ€™m talking about) walks up on the stage in a dress straight out of the 60â€™s. Sheâ€™s also got a vinyl purse of the same vintage slung over her right arm. I thought to myself "What the heck is going to happen here?"
What happens is Minton Sparks: a Tennessee born and raised poet who PERFORMS her art. Lets face it. Iâ€™m not a poet. Iâ€™m not a fan of poetry. Months go by in between the word ocurring to me in any way whatsoever. My normal mode of operation is to avoid all poetry.
It was a 30 minute set. I actually enjoyed it. The guitar player was good and I didnâ€™t notice it was poetry since the stories were real to me. She was there and gone and then Paul and the guys were there rockin hard.
After Paulâ€™s show was done I headed to the door because its late and Iâ€™ve got to get some sleep. Near the door is Minton, in the dress, carrying the bag. Sheâ€™s standing over a box of CDs. I walked up, she looked at me and I looked back at her. A pause. I said "You selling these things?" She said "Yeah". "So how much?" Well the greatest salesperson in the world she ainâ€™t and past midnight Iâ€™m lucky to form phrases in my head, much less sentences.
Since the weekend was busy I didnâ€™t catch a break until I got back to work Monday. And Because I normally spend a lot of time in front of a computer monitor its easy for me to listen to CDs. I listened to Mintonâ€™s CD and liked what I heard.
Iâ€™m something of an amateur detective when I have an internet connection, I decided to see if Minton had any kind of internet presence. Sure enough after a few keystrokes there I was at mintonsparks.com . Not bad for a country girl. It took just a little reading to understand that the country girl didnâ€™t stay in the country, even though she didnâ€™t go far away. Still, county girl to college professor, poet, and fine stage performer is kinda awesome.
Since my recollection of talking to Minton had more to do with my incoherence than anything else I decided to go to the guest book and let her know that I enjoyed her set. She sent me a very nice reply the next day and I told her to add me to her mailing list.
A few weeks later I got a notice that she would be performing at the Bongo Java Coffee House just across the street from Belmont University here in Nashville. The timing was perfect for Faye (my lovely city/country girl wife) and me so we made a date.
The Bongo Java Coffee House, being next to a university, seems to be something of a student hangout. The building is an old residence converted to a small restaurant. Faye and I had planned to eat there. Most everybody else were strictly chasing caffeine. There was a small study group and a couple of individuals clicking away at their laptop computers.
The atmosphere is easy and quiet. My kind of place. We had plenty of time and had a cozy, relaxing meal. The food was excellent. As time eased along the crowd changed a little. A little more post college and not interested in studying.
I had noticed when we came in that there was a little sign across a staircase that said "Minton Sparks 7:00", so I assumed that the show was upstairs. Downstairs didnâ€™t seem to be set up for any kind of performance.
Around 7:00 most of the people in the restaurant (who had spent nearly their time drinking coffee and talking ) moved a bit toward the staircase. They seemed to know what they were doing, so, since I didnâ€™t know for sure what I was doing, we decide to move a bit toward the staircase.
I never let my ignorance hold me back. We managed to pay the admittance fee and headed upstairs. At the top of the stairs is a single room, mostly flat black, with a stage of about the right size for the space. The room will seat something like 35 people. An uneducated guess and Iâ€™m too lazy to count.
About 15 minutes after the hour, Mintonâ€™s guitar player (OK, she introduced him and credited him again at the end but I donâ€™t remember his name) strode up to the stage. I recognized him immediately. He had two flat-top guitar and a resonator guitar.
Minton strode up the microphone in her familiar 50â€™s dress and purse. She told us that she was going to present a Christmas paradeâ€¦of her kinfolk. The room was comfortable, like a living room in an old country house. Supper eaten, fire lit, so to speak.
And she did. Many of the pieces I knew from the CD I had bought at 3rd and Lindsley. Here is where Iâ€™ve really got a problem. I truly donâ€™t know how to describe Mintonâ€™s performance. It is so unique that thereâ€™s nothing I know to compare it to.
So youâ€™ll have to take my word for it. If you are a country person, aspire to be a country person or know a country person, you would love this performance. Excellent support from the guitar and energetic, heart felt and knowing delivery bring Minton and her family right into your heart and mind.
Of course, itâ€™s not all pretty. Truth just isnâ€™t all pretty, but it is better prettyed up versions that arenâ€™t true. Thereâ€™s a little of everything: Motherâ€™s love, passion, gossip, adultery, moonshine, church, marriage, anger and , oh yes, buck dancing.
At this point Iâ€™m just going to give up trying to describe Mintonâ€™s performance except to mention two of my favorite pieces. One is, generally speaking, is about square and/or buck dancing. Minton buck dances throughout, and, let me tell you, itâ€™s a lot of work AND sheâ€™s telling the poem. The second is a poem about gossip where the image is that of clucking chickens. Minton does this so wellâ€¦I actually thought I was going to fall into the floor laughing.
The show was a bit shy of two hours, non-stop entertainment. It was so good, so memorable, I havenâ€™t been able to stop talking about it. So check Mintonâ€™s web site: mintonsparks.com. She does shows at various places around the country. Find a way to go see her. She is a great show that you will never forget.
And buy a CD or two whether she tries to sell you one or not.