I had to listen to this twofer EP (ironically adding up to a goodly bit more than a normal full-length release) three times in order to try to nail down why it was so intriguing -- and I emphasize the verb "try", as I still can't fully suss out what fascinates me here…and will be quite happy to keep assessing. Tori Sparks is a Nashville ex-pat residing in Barcelona but a globe-trotting artist, and Until Morning / Come Out of the Dark is ostensibly a split CD affair (ya actually get two separated discs) in order to illuminate differing aspects of her showcase. Well, that's what the PR says, anyway. I say it's all of a piece, Sparks' talent and acumen hauntingly formidable, and inseparable. I think my assertion is well buttressed by the product itself: not only does she sing in a dark sultry voice redolent of eros and lament while playing guitar and percussion, not only did she write all the songs save one, and not only did she design the entire package, but she also co-produced the whole shebang. Perhaps that's why the entire enterprise has the same dark beauty as the winsome chanteuse herself.
I'd like to say Sparks is a Janis Joplin but she isn't, not really, at least not in the volume department—but in riveting intensity, she has mastered the marrow-deep conviction and passion that made Janis such a phenomenon. Relix magazine, not exactly noted as a fount of profundity, claims Sparks as another Bonnie Raitt. This is a disservice. Ms. Tori could kick Raitt's half-ass redheaded butt from Spain to Tulsa and back again, not just in musical prowess but in compositional powers as well. By a factor of 10, Sparks is a true full-spectrum artist and Morning/Dark a movingly hypnotic instrument of thickly painted canvases, Catalonian and Greco-esque in smoldering storminess and power. In truth, try as I might, I can't summon up a comparative except in the male domain: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Randy Newman…although when this firebrand revs up in Over, Ana Popovic comes to mind in a searing white-hot conflagration.
Morning / Dark has all the earmarks of a threepenny cycle brought over the hill glaring like a weird-sister succubus into modern context while crammed to the gills with the ancient ebon of an almost Sophoclean nastiness raging with unsuppressed emotion and primality. Taking on David Henry once more, with whom she has twice worked previously, was a superb move. This guy has produced not only REM and The Cowboy Junkies but also the killer Widespread Panic band, whose sophomore effort remains an absolute mind-blowing classic. Thus, Mr. Henry knows moody from jump. The two seem to have pulled the most wicked recesses out of each other and thence upon the outside world. They hauled in three electric guitarists (Fats Kaplan, Will Kimbrough, Joe Garcia) who deliver brilliantly laconic lines in an atmosphere electric with hellish tinges, the kind of slo-flo emotional magma Tennessee Williams delighted in, and the rest of the ensemble is just dead-nuts chiaroscuroed in stark, dusty, slit-eyed lust, anger, despair, and purgatorial hopelessness. No matter where you go in this superb release, you encounter talent that will not be suppressed…and I don't for a moment recommend it as the soundtrack for your next speech at the Optimists Club.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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