From the opening notes of singer/songwriter/guitarist Arkansas Dave’s debut album, you’re first thinking “am I listening to an old Molly Hatchet record?” but quickly, you realize there’s a lot here to offer, not retreads of Southern rock. Horns, arrangements, big, backing vocals, keyboards – it’s a bold and exciting stew of sounds so you can dismiss any biases immediately. The Austin-based, Arkanasas-raised multi-instrumentalist showcases his natural penchant for blues and soul (with tinges of gospel and country) on this first collection of thirteen songs, recorded in just eight days (!). It’s also more than noteworthy to mention that most of the instruments were recorded at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, along with members of the equally-legendary studio house band, The Swampers.
Like I stated, “Bad At Being Good”, the album’s kickoff track, is a beefy, balls-out sonic attack with an eye-opening sound and a freewheeling vibe; “On My Way” is down-home, modern blues with that soul punch and “Think Too Much” is a swampy, well-produced piece that sounds radio-friendly and pumps and throttles in a very Stones-y manner. “Chocolate Jesus” is a tongue-in-cheek pseudo gospel piece about the joys of candy (!) with a New Orleans funeral style brass backing; “The Wheel” is the album standout – jazzy time signatures, crisp guitars and textures along with a very emotional vocal delivery and some classic psychedelic bits thrown in for good, effective measure and “Jubilee” is a warm, slower paced acoustic-framed number that (at moments) reminds me of The Black Crowes’ “Thorn In My Pride”. “Something For Me” comes straight out of the Otis Redding-style book and Arkansas Dave nails it on-the-one, with a gorgeous arrangement and horns that would make Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love proud and “Coming Home” closes this initial bow in a subdued and tasteful manner.
An impressive debut, to be sure. A great collection of songs, without a doubt. There’s a lot to enjoy and slowly savor in the performances. This one of those moments where you think that this performer has a lot more of quality to offer. Nothing but pure goodness.
Arkansas Dave’s debut album is currently available