"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
The hip-hop quintet entered the spotlight in 2002 when it traded in the Dirty South for the Greasy South with country soul-infused love songs to rural Kentucky in "Po Folks" and "Awnaw," both off the group's debut album, "Watermelon, Chicken and Grits." But, as these things go, Nappy Roots seemed to vanish as soon as it appeared. Now eight years, one added member and a squad of mix tapes later, the South's answer to The Roots is back with a new album, "The Pursuit of ..." (wait for it) "... Nappyness," which, in spite of the rancid title, is loading up some decent reviews, thanks in no small part to some studio sorcery by Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio) and Jay Electronica (the next Dr. Dre). Local rap/emo-poppers EKG open the night while g-force works the graphics with a special VJ (video jockey) set.
Does it buzz any harder than this? The Romany Rye is poised for national success and has shuffled together a consistent fan base in Arkansas. Fronted by Los Angeles' Luke MacMaster and backed by Little Rock rockers Whitman Bransford, Jesse Bates, Ryan Hitt, Judson Spillyards and Joshua Spillyards, the folk-rock outfit has toured with Dawes and Delta Spirit, both brothers in genre, and have scored an approving thumbs-up from mega-stars Kings of Leon. Romany Rye co-headlines the night with Velvet Kente, fresh off of opening for award-winning British songstress Corrine Bailey Rae and getting knighted as the sixth greatest local act ever in last week's Arkansas Music Poll. If your local music checklist is looking under-inked, take this chance to check out two must-sees under the same roof.
For years, Michael Franti has been a supreme figure in the world of jam-fusion. He spent the early-'90s providing a fiery, political mouthpiece for electronic jazz outfit The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy before forming Spearhead in 1994. Since, Franti has melded reggae optimism to the same politically alarmed manifesto-songs in an attempt to find anything resembling a ray of hope in an otherwise miserably bleak political climate. It's not always a formula for mainstream success, but the road-worn Franti finally scored a big chunk of mainstream admiration last year with "Say Hey (I Love You)," a choogling, super-sugared piece of happy, shiny pop, written in Woody Harrelson's bathroom. Just last week, he released his seventh album with Spearhead, "The Sound of Sunshine." Don't expect anyone to cry "false advertising" over the title.
This Crescent City swamp-funk band is no stranger to Central Arkansas, blazing up the interstate since 1977. You can count on the brass septet to buck jump through town every couple years or so, most recently playing Sticky Fingerz back in June. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has gone from a second-line Crescent City outfit to a house band, named after their Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club, to one of the most influential troupes to ever spread the good news of NOLA. And spread it they do. This week sees the band take up a brief artists-in-residency position at UCA on Thursday before playing a free show in Simon Park alongside the school's marching band as part of Conway's annual ArtsFest.