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September 12, 2006

Spoken-Word Artist Minton Sparks “Heritage Headliner” At Cultural Crossroads Conference

Cultural Tourism Conference Coming To Historic Jonesborough In October

NASHVILLE - - Minton Sparks, a wildly original spoken-word artist and master storyteller, will be featured as the “Heritage Headliner” at Cultural Crossroads…Heritage Tourism and the Arts 2 in Historic Jonesborough, Tennessee, October 19 and 20. The highly anticipated cultural tourism conference will be presented by the Tennessee Arts Commission, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The conference will explore ways in which cultural heritage and the arts can be used to attract visitors to Tennessee .

Rich Boyd, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, says Minton Sparks is a natural choice for the conference. “Her performances have elements of storytelling, music, poetry, and drama, but what makes her a true original is her use of southern cultural elements and her edgy delivery on stage. She seems to draw upon the characters and traditions of the south, as they serve as her inspiration for her sometimes off-beat and humorous stories.”

Sparks has recently received increased recognition as a spoken-word artist. In 2006, she was featured nationally on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and internationally on the BBC's Bob Harris Show, along with the syndicated Woodsongs' Old Time Radio Hour. She also opened for singer/songwriter John Prine this year, and received a thunderous reception during the 2006 MerleFest, a well-known Americana music festival. This spring she wrapped up a four part Tennessee Performing Arts Series, Minton Sparks and Friends, featuring Jessi Colter and Rodney Crowell, and played to sold-out houses and rave reviews each night.

Her most recent CD release, Sin Sick, guides the listener into the soul's dark struggle, led by Sparks ' riveting spoken word and punctuated with poignant comic relief. She picks the lock on her family's hidden stories, drawing listeners into her world with charming familiarity and heart-breaking candor.

Sparks ' CD debut, Middlin' Sisters has been called “one of the finest spoken word recordings issued in America in more than ten years.” Her second CD, This Dress, won “Spoken Word Record of the Year” in 2004 at the Just Plain Folk Music Awards, and got a nod from the Chicago Sun Times for “Top Five Off The Beaten Path Records of 2003.”

“I think it's true that the more specific one's approach to the subject matter, the more universal its appeal,” says Sparks . “I love to experience the regional flavor of particular artists and performers. In my own work the rhythms and fragrances are shot through with being a Southerner. I'm really looking forward to being a part of the Cultural Crossroads conference in Jonesborough this year.”

For more information on Cultural Crossroads…Heritage Tourism and the Arts 2, contact Leigh Green, director of community arts development for the Tennessee Arts Commission, at (615) 532-9796 or e-mail: leigh.green@state.tn.us.

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