Arkansauce – OK To Wonder
Recorded in Fayetteville, AR this 5th studio effort by Arkansauce provides listeners of bluegrass with revelry, wonder & whimsy on 11 distinctive insightful songs. The musicians perform in a tightly improvisational style within the structure of some tightly knit melodies. All 4 members sing so the showcase is vocally diversified.
Bluegrass wouldn’t be bluegrass without well-punctuated fingerpicking & this starts with a rousing piece – “Up on the Shelf.” What makes this song even more interesting is the quirky vocalizing. Not your average melodic voice – more like a polished back porch whiskey-soaked stogie-stoked Uncle. But with all that said – the voice is perfectly suited for these types of songs. The roll of the banjo notes is like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. It’s an indulging melody & a toe-tapper.
This brew in OK To Wonder (Drops April 21–Independent) isn’t what you’ll find on the radio unless you’re down in bluegrass country – but if you do this is high-octane stuff, meticulously rendered & with lots of spirit.
The instrumental “Big City Chicken,” is searing & saturated with backwoods vibrancy. The inter-picking shimmer of the notes is invigorating. Flatt & Scruggs would be proud. Just 4 young men that sound like a hot springs orchestra. Arkansas may have the only active diamond mine in the nation but these guys mine their own jewels.
The tune “First Night on the Tour,” is steeped in a Hot Tuna-type showcase. The ensemble vocals add authenticity to the bluegrass fire. Everything is well-played & optimistic. A counterpoint to the blues. The danger with bluegrass to urban ears is that it tends to begin to sound like the same song after song. But Arkansauce has that beat. Their compositions have clarity & distinction. They don’t just crawl along, or foot-stomp they have a whirling, lively groove. The lyrics aren’t cliched & the words are held down by the gravity of the tight melodies.
The late Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead) who played with Old and In the Way with David Grisman, Vassar Clements & Pete Rowan would feel at home with these boys. There’s an added incendiary feel to bluegrass that much of country music doesn’t possess. Bluegrass is probably more closely related to jazz than country. The instrumental “Bim Batta,” has a jazzy improvisational complex to its picking. Impressive.
Highlights – “Up on the Shelf,” “Big City Chicken,” “First Night on the Tour,” “Coldiron,” “Bim Batta,” “I’ll Be Yours,” the two superb “Early Bird” & “The Funky Gorilla” & “My Home In Arkansas.”
Musicians – Adams Collins (banjo/piano/vocals), Tom Andersen (bass/vocals), Zac Archuleta (guitar/vocals) & Ethan Bush (mandolin/vocals).
Color image courtesy of Arkansauce. The 54-minute CD @ https://www.arkansaucemusic.com/info