HOT SPRINGS BLUES FESTIVAL
Various times and venues. $10 per day or $15 for full pass.
Blues fans, y'all probably will want to head down to The Spa City this weekend for the 17th Annual Hot Springs Blues Festival. Things kick off with Samantha Fish at The Ohio Club. Friday will see performances from The Ghost Town Blues Band at Big Chill; Little G Weevil at the Ohio Club; Bart Walker Band at Fat Jack's, and Youngblood Blues Jam (all-ages) at Classics Bar & Grill in the Clarion hotel.
Saturday has workshops at the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs from noon-3 p.m. (including one from Bluesboy Jag on how to build your own cigar-box guitar — it's $40). Gates open at 2:30 p.m. at Hill Wheatley Plaza and the headliners are Shakura S'aida and Zac Harmon. After-parties kick off at 9 p.m.
There are more workshops Sunday from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., after which the gates open up again, with music kicking off at 3:30 p.m. Headliners are Bart Walker Band and Southern Hospitality, and after-parties start up again at 9 p.m. Should be a great time for blues lovers and at $15 for a full pass, it's a helluva deal.
JOHN HIATT & THE COMBO
9 p.m. Juanita's. $40 adv., $45 day of.
John Hiatt's career has spanned so many decades and he's penned songs for so many big-name artists and he's recorded so many great albums that it's dang-near impossible to pigeonhole him.
But if you absolutely had to attempt to sum up his work in a pithy one-liner, you might be tempted to say something along the lines of, "He's the father of tasteful, soulful, country- and blues-tinged, folksy, singer/songwriter-y Americana/roots-rock." But no, that doesn't really do him justice. I'd say pick out one of his many career highlights and dig in.
Although 1987's "Bring the Family" is probably one of the most obvious, it's also one of the best — "Lipstick Sunset" is a heartbreaker with some incredibly evocative guitar playing from Ry Cooder. Another really good one is 2008's "Same Old Man," a bluesy effort that was recorded at Hiatt's home studio, with guitar and mandolin provided by Luther Dickinson, the redoubtable guit-slinger of The North Mississippi Allstars. Hiatt's most recent LP was last year's "Mystic Pinball," another very well-received collection of tunes. If you're on the fence about this show for any reason, give it a listen and it'll knock you over onto the right side.
Opening the show will be Native Run.
The ceaselessly touring troubadours in American Aquarium return to Little Rock Friday for a show at Revolution, with Conway rabble-rousers Swampbird opening up, 9:30 p.m., $10.
With his band 7 Seconds, Sacramento native Kevin Seconds was one of the pioneers of melodic hardcore back in the early '80s. If you're an old punker, you might've owned a copy of "The Crew" or the "Skins, Brains & Guts" EP. You might even have a faded old "Walk Together, Rock Together" T-shirt tucked away in a drawer somewhere.
In addition to adding melody to the short-loud-fast formula for hardcore, Seconds was also one of the first punks to go the solo-acoustic route. While his long-running band is still going, Seconds is primarily focused on the solo gigs.
On tour with Seconds is fellow Sac-town native Kepi Ghoulie, frontman of the Ramones-and-B-horror-flick-inspired Groovie Ghoulies. That band broke up unfortunately, but Ghoulie has continued to pump out ridiculously catchy pop punk with a band and, yes, in a solo-acoustic setup.
Also on this bill at this all-ages show: Rad Posture and Maxine Meyers.
JOHN WILLIS EP RELEASE SHOW
9:30 p.m. The Joint. $7.
If you've been following original local music the last few years, the odds are good that Little Rock native John Willis' name will be a familiar one. The UCA graduate is an arranger and an ace piano player who has accompanied many of the state's finest singer/songwriters.
And it turns out that Willis is a fine singer/songwriter himself, as evidenced by the sophisticated, lush-sounding pop contained on his six-song EP, "King of the Cocktail Party," which will be available at this show. Willis's Facebook bio states that he grew up "listening to equal parts MoTown, 60's-70's singer/songwriters, and Gospel," as well as classical, jazz and world music.
All those influences certainly shine through on his new EP, especially on the title track, with its range of sounds: a gentle Brazilian lilt here, a jaunty chorus of background singers, what sounds like a harmonium in the distance, and wry observations throughout. Opener "The Ladder" is a bouncy, piano-led number with rich, gorgeous vocal harmonies and an ending that recalls Harry Nilsson in his prime.
Also on the bill: Sammy Williams, of Midwest Caravan, and headliner Isaac Alexander, performing with a full band.
The Fayetteville-based art collective Art Amiss, in collaboration with KXUA 88.3 FM and the Plastic Magic radio show, is releasing a compilation of 11 tracks of early '90s Arkansas rock bands. The compilation, called "Natural State Nineties" will be available via the Art Amiss bandcamp page at 5 p.m. today. Assembled from Plastic Magic host Phillip Eubanks's record collection, the compilation features Cosmic Giggle Factory, Dali Automatic, Oedipus Cat Pharm, 2 Much TV, The Delta Angels, Baby Self-Hate, Grass, Shindig Shop, Blue Boy Orlis and the Stompers, Tissue Culture, and The Pranks.
I'm going to have to admit ignorance here since I didn't spend much time in Arkansas back in the twentieth century, but color me intrigued.
From the Art Amiss website, here's the details:
Listening to the compilation is free, but those who choose to make a $5 or more donation to Art Amiss will be able to download the songs in a number of high quality audio formats and will receive a 17-page digital booklet featuring band lineups, original song release details, and scans of original release artwork, photographs, and concert flyers.
It took the Internet a year to turn this into a meme, but it was worth the wait. Dolly Parton's 45 rpm recording of "Jolene" slowed down to 33 rpm is a revelation. Enjoy.
There were so many things to like about the third annual Johnny Cash Music Festival Saturday night at Arkansas State University's Convocation Center that it’s hard to know where to start.
Perhaps Jimmy Fortune, while describing George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care” — a country classic he capably covered — summed up not only that song but the evening as well when he said “that’s real country music right there.”
With Fortune, Vince Gill, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Tommy Cash and Joanne Cash Yates filling the bill, highlights abounded. Here are some of our favorites, in no particular order.
The steel guitar is sorely missing in much of what serves as country music these days, but it was showcased big-time during Gill’s part of the show by the absolutely awesome Paul Franklin. He and Gill have recently released a collaborative album, “Bakersfield,” which salutes Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and we would have left satisfied if all we’d heard all night was the way they teamed up on “Foolin’ Around,” “Together Again,” “The Fightin’ Side of Me” and “The Bottle Let Me Down,” which Gill said just “might be the greatest drinking song ever written.”
Throughout the evening, the artists pined for more traditional country music while delivering it lovingly and expertly. One of the best lines was from Gill, as he proclaimed his love of cheatin’ songs. “These days,” Gill said, “if you go to a country music show and you don’t hear a cheatin’ song, you ought to get your money back.”
You have to think Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were looking down and smiling as hosts Tommy and Joanne, the two remaining Cash siblings, belted out a feisty version of “Jackson.”
It was like stepping back in time to hear the Gatlins on hits like “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You),” “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love” and “Broken Lady.” Larry, acknowledging that teens usually don’t recognize some of the brothers’ biggest hits, said youngsters at their show are “like a goat looking at a new gate.”
Fortune, formerly with the Statler Brothers, delighted with “Flowers on the Wall,” “Elizabeth” and others, but simply soared on what he called “one of the best hymns ever written” — “How Great Thou Art.”
Sometime during the evening, it dawned on us that with Roy Acuff and George Jones gone, if anyone can assume the mantle as the current king of country music, a strong case could certainly be made for Gill. With a truckload of CMA and Grammy awards, the talented vocalist is known for his tenor on high lonesome ballads and is an accomplished and respected instrumentalist and songwriter.
He has an easy stage presence and a witty sense of humor; plus, he can handle the fast ones, the ballads and just about anything in between. Who else in the same set could deliver the emotional tribute to his late brother, “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” and the, uh, minor hit that’s probably an anthem for a few husbands around the country, "It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long." A run-through of hits like “One More Last Chance,” “When I Call Your Name” and “Look at Us” reminded audience members what a great career he’s had.
We’re always suckers for collaborations that you don’t get to see every day, so when all the performers blended their voices and closed out the show with rousing renditions of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Amazing Grace,” we left happy.
Last year’s festival had its ups and downs, but this one was paced much better, there actually seemed to be a plan about who sang and when, and we’d have to say these performers — while they may not have been burning up the charts of late — certainly appealed to the older demographic that the festival draws. We’re already looking forward to the fourth one next year.
9 p.m.-5 a.m. Discovery. $10-$15.
Atlanta's Yung Joc first blew up big back in 2006, with his debut for Diddy's Bad Boy South label, "New Joc City." You might remember that video for "I Know You See It." Most recently, Joc was featured alongside T-Pain on the track "Addicted to Sex."
Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane seemingly dissed Joc on a track from last year's "Trap God": "I got all eyes on me like Pac did / But I ain't tryin' to go broke like Joc did." So did Joc respond by going all ballistic and beefin' with Gucci?
Nah, he was totally cool about it while also being hilarious. He told V-103's The Loud Pack that he loves Gucci and that "at the end of the day, it's freedom of speech man. Because I could be like, 'Whatever, Gucci ugly as ever.' I could be like, 'He done burned half the strippers in Atlanta.' I could say whatever but that don't mean nothing, it's just freedom of speech, that's what music's about."
9 p.m. Stickyz. $8 adv., $10 day of.
So a few years ago, I was living in Fayetteville and I walked into the natural foods store to buy some organic Cheetos or something, and I look up and there's standing Earl "Chinna" Smith. No exaggeration: The man played on like half the reggae albums I own. Probably more than half now that I think about it. I-Roy, Burning Spear, Toots & The Maytals, Big Youth, Dillinger, Max Romeo, The Upsetters, Scientist, The Mighty Diamonds, Augustus Pablo — the list goes on seemingly forever of albums to which Smith contributed his versatile, snaky guitar playing. I think it would be fair to say that he's the king of reggae session guitarists.
So why was he was standing in a hippie "co-op" in Arkansas, looking around like, what is this place? He was in town because he'd hooked up with Joseph Fennell, a.k.a. Joseph Israel, a guy from Fayetteville whose dad owns some popular restaurants. Israel loved reggae so much he grew out dreads and started talking with a patois and converted to Rastafarianism (he also quotes the Bible a lot on his Facebook). Oh, and he went down to Kingston and recorded at Tuff Gong and actually did a duet with Luciano and Dean Fraser (which isn't too bad). He's got a new album out called "Kingdom Road" and ... I don't know, it's all just so weird.
There was this bizarre Fayetteville thing going on for a while where these people from Arkansas were all "Jah" this and "Irie" that and "I and I gon' chant down Babylon" or whatever and lots of us were all like, "Ha-ha, whatever poseurs." But then one of them actually became a somewhat notable reggae artist. He put out an album on Universal a few years ago. He's on a compilation album for children called "Songs for the Car," alongside Billy Ray Cyrus and Smashmouth and Hanson and Patti LaBelle. Just, weird.
JOHNNY CASH MUSIC FESTIVAL
7 p.m. Arkansas State University. $38-$150.
The Johnny Cash Music Festival enters its third year this weekend, and according to a recent press release from Arkansas State University (which hosts the event), one part of the festival's mission is nearly in sight: The restoration of the Cash boyhood home in Dyess is scheduled to be complete and the museum open in the spring. The festival's proceeds also help fund a scholarship to ASU, which four students currently enrolled at the university have benefited from.
The lineup this year skews a bit more toward the mainstream '80s-'90s side of the country spectrum, with hitmaker Vince Gill as headliner, joined by Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Jimmy Fortune (of The Statler Brothers), and hosts Tommy Cash and Joanne Cash.
JIMBO MATHUS AND THE TRI-STATE COALITION
10 p.m. White Water Tavern. $10.
We've written quite a bit about Mississippi's Jimbo Mathus here at the Times and that's because, well, No. 1 we're just big fans of his music. His great recent "White Buffalo" album is still getting spins around these parts (Man, that opener, "In the Garden," is a classic).
But also, he comes up with nuggets like the following, which was his answer to a question in a recent interview with the Austin Chronicle's Derek Van Wagner. The fellow asked him: What makes good American music? Mathus said: "What a hard question that is. I'd say get some bark on you, do your homework and just love music and be passionate about the roots of your indigenous music and play and have fun with it. And that makes you a great American and a great patriot. I like music that creates a positive influence in the world. Positive change — that's what I'm trying to be."
It was a hard question, but that sure sounds like the correct answer. Also on this bill: blues singer/songwriter Davis Coen, a South Carolina native based out of Memphis. He performed at our Heritage Hog Roast back in May. Check out his tune "Change in the Weather," it's a good'n.
FOUL PLAY CABARET, THE FRONTIER CIRCUS
9 p.m. Maxine's. $10 adv., $12 day of.
Could there be a more appealing combination of entertainers for the discerning gadabout than country musicians and burlesque performers? I think not.
The burlesque troupe in this case would be the lovely, the beautiful and talented, the coolly unflappable ladies of the Foul Play Cabaret, est. 2011, Hot Springs, Ark. According to the group's online bio, Foul Play Cabaret "has been capturing the hearts of many with their diverse and sultry shows, proving that the only thing hotter than the water in Hot Springs, Arkansas is the women." Zing! If you require evidence of this claim, check 'em out on the ole YouTube, they've got some, uh, teasers posted on there. Yowza!
As far as the music portion of the evening is concerned, that will be handled by The Frontier Circus, a rambunctious bunch of rabble-rousers who mangle your favorite country and garage-psych classics in a delightfully feedback-enveloped manner.
Tickets go on sale tomorrow for the "Willie Nelson & Family" performance that's been added to the Walton Arts Center's 2013-14 season on Nov. 26.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets will run $49 to $79 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 479-443-5600 or going to the arts center's website.
EUREKA SPRINGS BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL
Various times and venues.
The music festivals up in the Little Switzerland of the Ozarks continue with the annual Eureka Springs Bluegrass Festival, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday at Basin Spring Park with The Water Melon Social, which features free water and watermelon. There'll be an open jam as well, so bring your banjo or your fiddle or your dobro or your acoustic guitar or your mandolin or your harmonica or your standup bass and go ahead and join in.
Starting at noon on Friday and Saturday, there will be free music at the park. Friday's lineup includes the Eureka Springs Bluegrass Band, Gary Allbritton & Friends, The Dragon Masters, Mountain View Friends and The Clark Family Trio with Bill Nesbitt.
Saturday's free offerings include The Buffalo City Ramblers, The Dragon Masters, Buddy Griffin & Friends, The Clark Family, Pam Setser and Mountain View Friends, The Gravel Yard Bluegrass Band and Ozark Alliance. Saturday night at The Auditorium boasts a huge lineup of players, including Tim Crouch, Arkansas Red, Ron Landers, Donny Catron, Retro & Smiling, Spoon Man and headliners Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press (filling in for Jesse McReynolds, who is unable to perform because of health issues). That show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $18-$28. Call 479-253-7333 for more information.
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