Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.
By John Tarpley
Again, it's over before it's barely begun. But that's the nature of the beast known as the 48 Hour Film Festival. Once a year, the film project returns Little Rock, banding together teams of friends, co-workers, families and college students to write, produce, perform and edit a short film in a whirlwind, Red Bull-fueled weekend of competitive cinema. The catch? Teams are given a required character, one required spoken line, a prop and a film genre to build their film upon. This year, teams were given a camp counselor named "Geoff" or "Georgia Cook," a tire or a wheel as a prop and "here we go again" as the films' "frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn" coup de dialogue. This year, 21 teams entered, including the reigning champs here at our paper, spearheaded by the Andrei Tarkovsky of the Arkansas Times, our senior cineaste, David Koon. Screenings are 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday (Group A) and Friday (Group B).
For the last decade, this plaintive, M.O.R. college-country act bypassed loud, national exposure in favor of relentlessly touring of small towns and college circuits, pushing their own releases and winning over regional radio stations, eventually finding itself with a major label deal and a notoriously dedicated fan base in spite of its relative anonymity in the world of big country. By taking this more personal, road-tripping route of bringing big music to small crowds, the Eli Young Band, fronted by long-time collaborators Mike Eli and James Young, come around often and return to ever-growing crowds. The sound, however? It's about what you'd expect: an inoffensive, beige mash of everything in the middle of the dial, all seemingly drawn from an old Parade Magazine's weekly Columbia House CD Club insert. New country, '90s rock, classic adult-contemporary — it's all there in some safe, shapeless blah. But it's a potent blah that consistently fills up theaters and clubs with excited fans who sing along to every word sung by the "Eagles by way of Blake Shelton" easy-goers. Recently, the band's expanding popularity has earned it airtime on country music stations, opening spots for the big-timers like the Dave Matthews Band, Alan Jackson and Gary Allan and the record for the longest running single on Billboard's country charts with "When It Rains," a twangy, earnest piece of musical loneliness made for gray mornings. Expect this to bring out legions of devotees.
This celebrated Albertan singer, like the Eli Young Band above, maintains hordes of dedicated fans without tapping into the mainstream pipe. Unlike them, he's no slick brand of twang-pop. Alt-country it ain't either. Corb Lund is a traditionalist, singing — sometimes yodeling — about the Civil War, whiskey, horses and his native Canada. He and his backing band, the Hurtin' Albertans, have more in common with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys than anything you'll see on GAC. And his voice is almost unsettlingly twang-free. For a purist, he's an odd bird, loved in Canada and criminally overlooked in America. Maybe it's because even the most enthusiastic champions of the Canuck cowboy are quick to admit his music takes time to click; he's a grower with albums of dusty prairie dirges that demand repeating. But songs like the gorgeous "The Truth Comes Out" and the talkin' shuffle of "Long Gone to Saskatchewan" are quick, slick entry points to a rich, addictive body of north-of-the-border country. And now, after making five albums that barely squeezed into American ears, Lund signed to New West Records, brought out his first U.S. release in "Losin' Lately Gambler" and now sits in the same roster as fellow purists Dwight Yoakam, Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle. He's enormously literate, a gifted storyteller and a deceptively imaginative troubadour from the same vein as his new label mates. If there was any justice in an industry notoriously devoid of such things, ol' Corb would find little trouble translating the accolades and gold to stateside. If you're looking for real country, look no further.