Black and Sparrow Around Again

Unlike their 1995 release, “Friend and Partner,” “Second Time Around” features the duo augmented by the local musicians Randolph A. Hudson III (baritone guitars), Mike Mazzaraco (bass), and James Benard (drums)
They typically play acoustic guitars as the duo Black and Sparrow, but Klyph Black, right, and John Sparrow were also partners in the electrified band Rumor Has It. Black and Sparrow will hold a release party for their new album, “Second Time Around,” on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett. Robert Comes

    “Second Time Around” is, appropriately, the second album by Black and Sparrow, a duo that shares a 26-year history, in one form or another. Almost two decades after their debut release, Klyph Black and John Sparrow, veterans of the top Long Island band Rumor Has It, returned to the studio to record 10 new original songs. The band will perform these and more at a release party for the album on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

    Unlike their 1995 release, “Friend and Partner,” “Second Time Around” features the duo augmented by the local musicians Randolph A. Hudson III (baritone guitars), Mike Mazzaraco (bass), and James Benard (drums).

    Mr. Black, a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who lives in East Hampton, has likely played on the Talkhouse stage more than anyone else, with the possible exception of the guitarist Peter (Bosco) Michne. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Westbury, he made a permanent move to the South Fork in 2005, “but I’ve been coming out here forever,” he said.

    In the 1980s, he began playing solo at Snugglers Cove, the long-gone Amagansett tavern. Over time, a percussionist, a bassist, two guitarists, and a harmonica player, Eddie (Mac) McNeill, were added to the lineup.

    When his cousin married Peter Honerkamp, who was buying the Talkhouse with a group of investors, Mr. Black brought the act down Main Street to the newly reopened venue. “Originally it was just me and Mac,” he said. “We did the acoustic thing, and the band grew out of that. Rumor Has It became the house band.” Mr. Black also served as one of the nascent live music venue’s sound engineers.

    Mr. Black and Mr. Sparrow met through a mutual friend, with whom they collaborated on a few songs. “I used to get so many calls for cover gigs, and was sick of doing them by myself,” Mr. Sparrow recalled. “I knew Klyph sang, so I called him: ‘Want to play some acoustic music?’ We started playing like crazy, four times a week, all over Queens and Manhattan.”

    Through an acquaintance at the now-defunct Back Fence on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, where they often performed, Black and Sparrow auditioned for a monthlong residency in Interlaken, Switzerland, in 1995. They got the gig and quickly booked studio time to record “Friend and Partner.”

    “We grabbed a couple hundred copies and went over,” Mr. Black said. “It was a great gig.”

    The experience was unforgettable, Mr. Sparrow said. “They gave me a room looking at the Alps. It was heaven, I can’t describe it,” he said. “I almost wound up staying there.”

    Mr. Black is also a member of the Zen Tricksters, a jam band that the website AllMusic describes as “heirs to the throne left vacant by the Grateful Dead” and “spiritual brothers of Phish.” Back at the Stephen Talkhouse, Mr. Black performed with that band and many other artists over the years. “Actually, the first time [the Zen Tricksters] played was without me — I wasn’t in the band yet,” he said. “I played here with Donna Jean Godchaux from the Grateful Dead.”

    He also performed with many of the legendary artists who were flocking to the intimate venue on Main Street. “I got to play with J.J. Cale and Levon Helm,” Mr. Black recalled. “I got to play with Albert Collins, which was really cool, and David Hall, an Australian blues guitar player.” He also backed the late Vassar Clements, a Grammy Award-winning fiddler, and several of his songs were featured on the television programs “Felicity” and “Alias.”

    Over time, Rumor Has It grew, ultimately featuring nine members, many of whom were playing in multiple acts. “Everybody got too busy, and we broke it down to me and Johnny again,” Mr. Black said. “We started playing and coming up with new songs — Johnny was writing some great stuff. We talked about it and said, ‘Let’s put a band together.’ ”

    “Second Time Around” recalls an eclectic mix of influences that can broadly be described as Americana, or roots rock. Listeners will hear shades of the Grateful Dead, the Band, and Bob Dylan, as well as other artists who have thrived since the 1960s and ’70s, including artists they have opened for, among them Hot Tuna, Taj Mahal, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. 

    “John had this idea of having me sing his songs,” Mr. Black said, referring to “The Reason Why,” a track on “Second Time Around.” “It added an interesting slant to the band.”

    “I wrote that at home alone,” said Mr. Sparrow, “but had Klyph’s voice in mind, singing the verses. I came up with the changes for the solo, but Klyph and Randy [Hudson] came up with different harmonic parts. We actually work over the phone, sometimes.”

    The complementary partnership continues to bear fruit. Simon Says Booking, of Orange, Mass., handles the group’s engagements. The new release is receiving airplay, and the group is seeking management, Mr. Sparrow said.

    “It was the love of the music that we both did,” Mr. Black said of the partnership. “Johnny is more a rock ’n’ roll guy, I was the jam band guy. We’re a little different, but for some reason the two of us blend really well. It always sounded great, from the first time we played together, and it just got better and better. We work really well together, and those guys” — the musicians on “Second Time Around” — “bring a lot to the table. They really brought out a lot for the band.”

    “Second Time Around” is available at Crossroads Music and Innersleeve Records in Amagansett, and online at the Apple iTunes Store,,, and elsewhere in cyberspace.