When: Thu., Aug. 9, 7 p.m. 2012
You have to tweak the categories to honor a performer like Minton Sparks. Last year, the Conference on Southern Literature gave her its first-ever Spoken Word Award. “The Best Country Music Singer That Doesn’t Sing,” reads the T-shirt she sells as merch. It’d come off as a smart-ass dis of vocal abilities if it were applied to almost anybody else — but in her case, it’s recognition of the fact that she taps into the emotional power of the country music tradition in her own unorthodox way. Sparks is a born-and-bred Southerner, a trained social worker, a lifelong poet and buck dancer whose actor brother first coaxed her onstage. The way she channels the strength and eccentricity of the women in her bloodline into a rhythmic, immersive, narrative-driven speaker-songwriter thing works in tiny clubs that serve beer, in performing arts halls that don’t, and even at storytelling, poetry and lit festivals. We dare you to try to maintain a cool disengagement when she takes the stage, her pocketbook perched on her wrist, and works her singular brand of magic.