by Joe Meazle
If you think of Alvin Youngblood Hart only as a Handy and Grammy award-winning interpreter of roots and blues music of bygone eras (as many seem to continue to try to do), you would be missing the majority of what the multifaceted artist has created thus far and continues to create. It would be akin to judging a bowl of gumbo base solely on a single ingredient, a folly to be sure. That fine gumbo has a roots and blues component, sure enough, but there is also R&B, soul and good ol’ fuse-blowing Southern rock 'n' roll, just to name a few of the ingredients.
Hart hits the White Water Tavern Saturday night with his three-piece band, Muscle Theory. The smart money would seem to indicate that this show will be loud, in your face and will make you shake what you got. Nothing quaint or overly nostalgic seems very likely.
I recently got to talk to Hart about coming to Arkansas. Turns out, he's no stranger to our fair state, his history here dating back to the 1980s, cleaning navigation channels in the Ouachita River. Hart has worked with many Arkansawyers throughout his career. Arkansas-born Memphis record legend Jim Dickinson produced Hart’s album “Start with the Soul,” which contains a blistering cover of Black Oak Arkansas's “Cryin’ Shame.” Hart, along with Dickinson’s son Luther (of The North Mississippi All Stars) and the “Arkansas Son-In-Law” Jimbo Mathus make up the South Memphis String Band. Memphis bass mainstay and Pine Bluff native Mark Edgar Stuart (The Pawtuckets, One Four Fives et al) handled the bass chores for Hart’s band in the early 2000’s. He has also shared the stage with our own Greg Spradlin, the pride of Pangburn.
Though Hart has played Little Rock before, this is his first appearance at the venerable White Water Tavern. Given his history of defying musical categories while still acknowledging the past, the sometimes-cramped White Water should be a perfect fit for his huge sound. If you still need categories to enjoy music, categorize this show under “not to be missed.”