The last time I checked in on Tori Sparks was during 2007 with her album, Under The Yellow Sun, near the beginning of her career. It was a more than solid album, focusing on her voice and songwriting skills. I remember thinking at the time she had one of those voices that could not be taught, with its pure tone and wonderful, supple quality. My only concern centered on the sameness of much of the music.
Born in Chicago where she began playing the guitar at the age of 13, Sparks graduated from Florida State University, majoring in theater and music. Her music career, which is now nearing its 10-year mark, didn’t yield instant success despite her talent. Located in Nashville for years, she now uses Barcelona, Spain, as her main base of operation. In fact she can sing fluently in English, Spanish, and French.
Her latest release, Until Morning/Come Out Of The Dark, finds an artist who has matured over the past four years. Two albums and performing close to 200 concerts a year have honed her music and given it a professional sheen and polish. The lyrics are more incisive and the music has acquired greater sophistication. Best of all the music now travels in a number of directions with up-tempo numbers now mingling among ballads and folk, country, pop, and rock tunes all sharing the stage together. The one thing that hasn’t changed is her voice, which remains a formidable instrument and the foundation of her appeal.
Until Morning/Come Out Of The Dark has an interesting underlying theme. Comprised of two separate, seven-song albums (or EPs to be more precise), it could have been issued on one disc, but Sparks wisely separated them as their respective music is very different.
Until Morning is more creative and contains the edgiest music of her career. “Rain (The Widow)” is dramatic and powerful, while “On My Mind” gets a little bluesy as it meanders to create the feel of a smokey club. The title song contains a clear vocal over a gentle, acoustic guitar with the sound of subtle cello in the background.
Come Out Of The Dark takes a more traditional approach, although there are some distinct tempo changes. “My Delilah” explores her folk roots, while the country-styled “Judge A Book” bears a shuffle beat. The album ends with the title track, which is simple yet philosophical – and ultimately hopeful.
Tori Sparks is but two years shy of 30 and has decades to continue evolving and producing good music. She takes a giant step with Until Morning/Come Out Of The Dark to produce a work that is both creative and inventive. As well, she demonstrates her ambition to move her music in new directions.