Alan Sparhawk

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Alan Sparhawk
Alan Sparhawk in 2004 recording at Sacred Heart in Duluth
Alan Sparhawk in 2004 recording at Sacred Heart in Duluth
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Alan Sparhawk
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
OriginDuluth, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresIndie rock, slowcore
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1993–present
Associated actsLow, Retribution Gospel Choir, Black Eyed Snakes, A Murder of Crows

Alan Sparhawk (born 1969) is an American musician and singer-songwriter. He is best known as the guitarist and vocalist for bands Low and Retribution Gospel Choir.


George Alan Sparhawk (who goes by "Alan") was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in Utah. He met Mimi Parker when he was 9, after his family moved to Minnesota. Sparhawk began writing his own compositions at an early age. He later married Parker and eventually began performing with her in the band Low in Duluth, Minnesota in 1993.

Low released their first album in 1994.[1] As of 2015, Low has released eleven full-length studio albums. As of 2010, the group is composed of founding members Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums and vocals), joined by newer addition Steve Garrington (bass guitar).[2]

The music of Low is characterized by slow tempos and minimalist arrangements. Early descriptions sometimes referred to it as rock subgenre called "slowcore". However, Low's members ultimately disapproved of the term.[3][4]

Parker and Sparhawk's striking vocal harmonies represent perhaps the group's most distinctive element; critic Denise Sullivan writes that their shared vocals are "as chilling as anything Gram and Emmylou ever conspired on—though that's not to say it's country-tinged, just straight from the heart."[5]

Sparhawk is also a member of the blues-roots band Black Eyed Snakes, the blues-dub jam band Los Besos, and the rock band Retribution Gospel Choir. He also occasionally plays solo shows in his hometown. As a solo artist, Sparhawk released his debut album entitled Solo Guitar in August, 2006. He also released a track on a various artists compilation, Songs for the End of the World, as Hollis M. Sparhawk & Her Father, and the track "Be Nice To People With Lice" on the various artists compilation album See You on the Moon!. In 2007 he did a Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon.

Sparhawk has done charity work with the Maasai tribe in Kenya. After a friend of his became a friend of the village of Namuncha, he played a Christmas show in order to raise funds to build a school there, where students had previously been meeting in the shade outside. He calls the experience of visiting the Maasai one of the most spiritual of his life.[6]

Alan and Mimi live in Duluth, Minnesota, with their two children. They are members of the Mormon faith, about which Sparhawk has said, "our spiritual beliefs encompass our whole life and understanding of who we are and what we do."[6]

In 2012, Sparhawk, along with vocalist and fiddle player Gaelynn Lea, created the group A Murder of Crows. Their first album, Imperfecta, was released in June 2012.[7]

Sparhawk has tuned his guitar to Open G since the late eighties, saying, "now it's the only way I know how."[8]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-05-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Interview with Alan Sparhawk, Duluth News Tribune, March 6, 2008[permanent dead link].
  3. ^ Sparhawk: "What's the cheesiest? Slow-core. I hate that word. The most appropriate is anything that uses the word minimal in it, but I don't think anybody's made one up for that."QRD magazine interview
  4. ^ In another interview, Sparhawk claimed that a friend coined the term: "this friend of ours in a record store was always joking around ... and he said, 'I got it! You should call it "slowcore"!' ... It was a total joke, and I think I mentioned it at one of our interviews." "Interview with Low", Chord magazine, Jess Hemerly, April 2007, p. 44.
  5. ^ "Secret Name Japan by Low @ARTISTdirect". Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b Alan Sparhawk @ Linescratchers
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2012-11-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Sparhawk: "After a while I settled into a tuning I thought I had come up with myself, only to realize a year later that it was open G." QRD magazine interview

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