John Oates pays tribute to the voices that became before him — including Delta bluesmen, country yodelers and old-time folksingers — with next month's Arkansas.
Released on February 2nd, the solo record finds Oates fronting an electrified string band – the Good Road Band – that includes mandolin player Sam Bush and guitarist Guthrie Trapp. Together, the musicians take a layered, plugged-in approach to traditional songs from the American roots-music songbook, beefing up the mix with a handful of originals. Included in the mix is Oates' own "Arkansas," which pays tribute to the state's musical legacy.
"I was invited to go to Wilson, Arkansas," says Oates, who lives four hours away in Nashville, "and was inspired by the landscape where the cotton fields line the Mississippi River shore. My entire musical life has been influenced by the music that has flowed up that river from New Orleans through the Delta, and has had such an important sonic and cultural impact on America. It occurred to me that Arkansas was the last rural stop on the musical journey northward. I wanted both the song and video to reflect that."
Making its premiere today on Rolling Stone Country, the "Arkansas" video offers up a montage of grain silos, farmland, churches, back porches, cotton fields and river barges. The Philadelphia native walks the landscape throughout the clip, equal parts humble tourist and honorary Southerner. The result is a love letter to Arkansas, shining a light not only on the state's countryside, but its contributions to country music, too.
"The album came to life in the studio by assembling a group of great musicians who listened to each other and then played their asses off," adds Oates, whose soulful bark of a voice — now warmed and weathered with age — suits this vintage sound well. "It is a collection of early American popular songs, and to me [it] sounds like Dixieland, dipped in bluegrass and salted with Delta blues."
Recorded to analog tape in less than two weeks, Arkansas, the follow-up to 2014's Good Road to Follow, will be supported by a cross-country tour that kicks off next weekend in Morgantown, West Virginia.
January 14 – Morgantown, WV @ Lyell B Clay Concert Theatre
January 15 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
February 5 – New York, NY @ Joe's Pub
February 6 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
February 8 – Chicago, IL @ Old Town School of Folk Music
February 10 – West Hollywood, CA @ Troubadour
February 11 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
February 16 – St. Louis, MO @ Old Rock House
February 18 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head On Stage
February 23 – Greensboro, GA @ The Ritz-Carlton
February 24 – Greensboro, GA @ The Ritz-Carlton
February 25 – Greensboro, GA @ The Ritz-Carlton
February 27 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie's Attic
February 28 – Decatur, GA @ Eddie's Attic
March 2 – Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre
March 4 – Charleston, SC @ Music Farm
March 15 – Houston, TX @ The Heights
March 16 – Dallas, TX @ The Kessler Theater