Any familiarity with the music of PEI’s Rick Sparkes + the Enablers will amplify their bounteous qualifications to colour as multiform stylistics. Sonic architects, Sparkes and co. can transport the listening imagination to landscapes as far flung as eighteenth-century France and as intriguing as the golden coastline of California.
In anticipation of their forthcoming third album, “Picture Yourself in a Riot,” Rick Sparkes + the Enablers shared the title track as a single just last Friday. The song – written at the end of their sessions for the album (set for general distribution in May 2023) – was inspired by events that had infiltrated the thinking of the songwriter, Sparkes.
“The album was pretty much done at that point. We had all the basic tracking wrapped when I wrote the song ‘Picture Yourself in a Riot’,” explains Sparkes. “It was during the holidays in between these pockets of time where I was re-reading The Great Gatsby for a literature course that I was teaching, trying to remain in the present moment with my family and friends, but also being drawn back into this weirdly melancholic sense of nostalgia.”
“I mean I’m slightly melancholic and given to nostalgia most of the time anyway, but both my father and my paternal grandmother had died within the past two years (first my dad, then his mum), and so I think the timing of the writing being the dawn of a new year and all these other psychic forces just kind of coalesced into this song. I was so taken with it that we actually replaced the original album opener with ‘Picture Yourself in a Riot’ and renamed the album entirely.”
The riot being referred to is certainly psychological, deeply emotional, reflecting both his inner state and hinting at the turbulence of outward events – both those close to home and farther afield. Lyricist Rick Sparkes, is an award-winning writer and poet, well versed in the dynamic language can convey and weave in the mind’s eye. The lyrics from this newest single, consistent with Sparkes’ writing approach are ripe with metaphor and coded implications.
“But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, of his central mysterious character Jay Gatsby, in the 1925 publication of his novel, The Great Gatsby, often referred to as the last great American novel for its distinctive voice and disturbing American themes.
“Outside the seasons churn, long-lost American dream / Inside we whine and burn pages of the Great Gatsby,” sings Sparkes. “So much blood in the marigold, so little between you and me.” These sparse poetic words are packed with imagery, despairing and yet oddly hopeful, like sunlight briefly breaking through sky black clouds.
The track’s distinguished languid strummed acoustic, countered by an inventive electric guitar line from Danny Drouin, opens the first sixteen bars joined by the plaintive delivery with which Sparkes introduces the repeated theme of the lyric. Dreamy, introspective, questioning, the song unfolds as if struggling to come to grips with some larger ephemeral issue – the riot that the title references. Accompanied by backing vocalist Ruth Ann MacMurdo, the chorus reaches for catharsis but doesn’t break the momentum. “After sun has been revoked, the night is oh so cold / Oh, so cold, it glitters.”
Rick Sparkes + The Enablers’ 2021 sophomore release, “Pleasure in the Pathless Woods,” won the 2022 Music PEI Award for Group Recording of the Year, and was nominated for the 2022 East Coast Music Award for Group Recording of the Year. Based on their newest single, fans and new listeners alike are bound to be enthralled by the discoveries – melodically and lyrically, and with the production of multi-instrumentalist Brent Chaisson, that only Sparkes + the Enablers can create.
Photo Credit: Artist Website