For his new solo album ‘Arkansas‘, due for release on February 2nd, via Thirty Tigers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend John Oates (Hall & Oates) heads down the Roots road. For the album, he is joined by a strong stellar cast of musicians who go to make up The Good Road Band consisting of legendary mandolin players Sam Bush, pedal steel innovator Russ Pahl, world-famous electric guitar picker Guthrie Trapp, bass veteran Steve Mackey, cello virtuoso Nat Smith, and the groove of percussionist Josh Day.
The project originally began life as a tribute to Oates’ idol, Mississippi John Hurt. Once you start digging around you begin to realise that his love for the legendary American country blues singer and guitarist goes way back. He even played Mississippi John Hurt’s guitar, a Guild F-30, on the first two Hall and Oates albums.
This sentiment and connection to the bluesman was hammered home still further at a recent album showcase at the Station Inn in Nashville TN where he was joined by The Good Road Band. Before playing he produced an acoustic guitar which he told the audience was the one played by Hurt at Newport Folk Festival 1964. One which the festival purchased for him as he didn’t have an instrument to play at the time. He then played a solo number, a blues ballad made famous by Hurt – Spike Driver Blues. Prior to Hurt’s first performance at Newport Folk Festival the previous year in 1963, his whereabouts were largely unknown. Folk musicologist Tom Hoskins finally tracked him down and persuaded him to go on tour a move which helped bring about a blues revival.
The project evolved organically, during a series of Nashville recording sessions, into a unique, retrospective collection drawing from a wide range of Oates’ musical influences. Asked about the style and sound of Arkansas, he says, “It’s Dixieland dipped in bluegrass and salted with Delta blues.” The title track is propelled by a driving production that frames evocative images of the mist rising off the mighty Mississippi River and the expansiveness of the cotton fields in America’s heartland. With the essence of roots music at its core, vintage and modern recording techniques are woven throughout the album. A subtle yet unmistakable pop sensibility makes the record a landmark in Oates’ esteemed career.
With this incredible band, Oates shines a light on popular songs from America’s past long before the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Fresh interpretations include the Emmett Miller classic “Anytime” from 1924 as well as the classic Jimmie Rodgers tune “Miss the Mississippi and You” from 1932. Reimagined traditional Delta, country blues and ragtime selections salute legendary artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Blake. Two new original songs by Oates blend seamlessly with the traditional roots material.