Sparta Circle Drive

Best of 2007:

The Little Black Books: Sparta Circle Drive

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

DULUTH, Minn. - The Little Black Books latest CD titled, Sparta Circle Drive(Shaky Ray Records), is a return to the roots of blues and rock and the best album locally of 2007.

The Little Black Books is headed by Mark Lindquist, who plays guitar, writes the songs, and sings. The liner notes list a few others who “played and sang” as, Rich and Glenn Mattson, Mark Saari, and Bob Olson.

You might remember Lindquist locally for the bands Giljunko, Mr. Lindquist, The Lindquists, etc. He also is known as the CEO and co-founder Shaky Ray Records, who also released the new CD.

Their new album, Sparta Circle Drive, is a departure from Lindquist’s previous albums. Nothing characterizes that more than the last track, “Boots”, written by Lee Hazlewood. Most people remember the song as the flagship for Jessica Simpson and the movie remake of The Dukes of Hazard. Lindquist returns the piece to its previous glory with a gritty sound reminiscent of what Nancy Sinatra did in the late 1960s.

As Lindquist puts it, “I just figured it out one day in my head while I was working in the record store,” Lindquist said. “I've always had a thing for Nancy Sinatra… to be a part of the hippie generation while her father totally represented a completely different time and value system, and to be accepted by both means she knows how to get along with people. Her life seems like it had a lot stacked against it, but you can tell she just loves to sing like her father. Lucky she met Lee Hazlewood.”

Like many others who have heard Sinatra’s version, Lindquist feels Simpson did the song more damage than justice.

"I just cringed listening to Jessica Simpson’s version of it,” Lindquist said. “You gotta have a little grit to pull that song off, so hopefully I did it some justice. Regarding other members, Rich Mattson's solo on “boots” is perfect in my opinion. "You keep gamblin' when you ought not bet..." now that’s a good line. Hazlewood has an album calledCowboy in Sweden, which I recommend for all rural Scandinavians in Northern Minnesota.”

Sparta Circle Drive is not just about remakes of old songs, Lindquist writes everything else on the CD and moves effortlessly through genres and styles. On the first song, “Grind Him Down”, an electronic opening is quickly squashed by acoustic guitar and effects. The haunting initiation highlights the tune and talks about grinding the devil down.

“Wet Gospel” comes next and sounds like its name, dripping with bluesy undertones of the South. Rooted in solid guitar, Lindquist makes this scripture tune hum. He sings, “My home is underwater, my bones is under ocean, but my soul is with the father, just like the scripture promised. By morning - the city shall be free.”

Sparta Circle Drive has the feel of if Lou Reed had sat in on the Rolling Stones while they were doing Sticky Fingers. Lindquist thought of a different album by the Stones that was released a few years before Sticky, Beggars Banquet.

“Beggars Banquet is not only my favorite stones album, but it's probably in my top five albums of all time,” Lindquist said. “That whole Beggars Banquet, Exile on Mainstreet, and Sticky Fingers era of the Stones is how I like to think of them.”

On Lindquist’s last album he had a Stones type of song that was very catchy titled, “Don’t Blame Keith Richards.” The guitar in the song slithered until it hit the open road and was napalmed in the changes. It was harder than the Stones though, and might make poor old Keith piss his pants musically and lyrically.

“The song "Don't Blame Keith Richards" was sort of my response to people who complain about their act now,” Lindquist said. “It's in the key of "B", which a few Stones songs that are instantly recognizable are in, even though Keith tunes his guitar in strange ways. Keith can do no wrong in my book.”

One song on the album that stands out from the crowd is, “East Hillside Freeze Out.” While the other tunes are gritty and more acoustic based, this one goes to the classic Books sound and electrifies the CD.

Another reoccurring theme in the Books music is Whiskey. On their album Only One Name (In My Little Black Book), there was a catchy tune titled, “Whiskey So Soft.” On this album we have “When Ain’t When” about Lindquist’s favorite nip. He sings, “Whiskey love, my whiskey love, when ain’t when and enough’s not enough.”

“I wrote “Whiskey Love” on a bar napkin at R.T. Quinlan's Saloon one day at like two in the afternoon,” Lindquist said. “It was supposed to go in a different direction, but sometimes it's best to just record something and accept it so you can move on. “Whiskey So Soft” is a much better song, but it wouldn't fit on this record. I think Tom Waits once said that every song should either have a pirate or a dog in it, and I would say every album should have one song about whiskey.”

Take a shot with the Little Black Books and grab their CD from The Electric Fetus, or through their Myspace at: