Arkansas has some good musicians, but their CDs sometimes can be hard to find. Here are some more recent releases and where to get them:
My Favorite Things
Arkansan Oliver Thomas (or O.T., to friends) has put together a comfy compilation of jazzed-up Christmas classics. Most of the tracks have a really smooth sound that is just festive enough to put you in the holiday mood. You’ll hear some local jazz names on this disk, such as Gerald Thomas, Genine Perez, Rodney Block and Tanya Murphy. The only thing that hurts this record is the synthesized strings on a couple of tracks. Call me a purist, but if you can’t have the real thing, don’t try to imitate. Other than that, a solid holiday medley. It’s available in local bookstores, shops and galleries, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a sound that makes you want to pretend you’re a secret agent man, the Reverburritos channel the Ventures in their first album. There’s a little blues thrown in with the surf music, and some darn good guitar playing. Perfect cruising music. Check out the cdbaby.com link on their website to buy.
The Open Door
The latest offering from Little Rock goth princess Amy Lee et al. is more of the same heavy metal contrasted with beautiful singing as their first album — and it’s still awesome. “The Open Door” has a big-studio sound, complete with orchestras (one song is a rock adaptation of Mozart’s “Lachrymosa”), which only serves to highlight the balance this group strikes between darkness and light. They’ve made it big, so you can find “The Open Door” at just about any CD store.
If you’re not hip to the Boswells, you oughta be. Smooth vocals reminiscent of Weezer, warm rhythm guitar and mellow hooks will have you nodding along. It manages to be interesting without being confrontational. Listen on a Sunday afternoon and soak it all in. You can buy a copy from the Not Lame Records website.
In a Town Like This
You won’t find anything but homey, unpretentious music here. Former Little Feat side man Fred Tackett (mandolin, guitar) goes back to his Ozark roots with his son Miles on cello and buddy Domenic Genova on an 1870 German bass playing folk-style original songs. All analog recording equipment makes the sound even warmer. Go to the Little Feat website to purchase.
The Showdown, “Temptation Come My Way”: Hard rock, with a cover of a Kansas song. It’s OK, I’m just not into the screaming singing … Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonart, “This Rhythm on My Mind”: Jazz music with some Dixieland and scat thrown in. Pretty good stuff; more traditional-style jazz than we’ve been hearing lately … Soweto Gospel Choir: A new release from the dependable Shanachie label. An African choir sings gospel songs, and also a Bob Marley number. OK if you like that kind of stuff. The Soweto Gospel Choir will be coming to Conway in February … Furtherdown, “7 Years Hard Luck”: This Jonesboro group sounds a lot like Audioslave to me. Not bad … Ronnie Day, “The Album”: It’s emo and it sounds like Blink 182. He’s playing Juanita’s on Feb. 3 … Pentamental, “Harm and Harmony”: Hard rock. Every song is in 5/4 time, or so it says on their accompanying press material. They think this makes them progressive … Bob Devan, “Down in Arkansas”: Some tracks are rock, some are bluegrass with drums (including the title track), and others have a Motown feel, with horns and the like. A lot of good songs here … Jacob Miller, “Who We Are”: The music and voice sound a lot like John Mayer with a tinge of reggae, but the songs are more serious. Kinda pretentious stuff here … Patrick Hall, “One for the Ages”: Another artist from Arkansas, Hall plays piano, and the first couple of songs here are gospel and soul. The last few are more techno-sounding. Interesting blend … Philpot, “Hate Writes Better Than Love”: Very cool classic-rock and blues sounding recording.