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This year saw the release of "True Soul: Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax," on the respected reissue imprint Now Again. The collection compiles the output of the legendary Arkansas label True Soul, which entrepreneur and musical impresario Lee Anthony started in the '60s and operated through the '70s. Available as two separate CD+DVDs or a single 4-LP set, it was a gorgeous work born of obsessive love of the soul, R&B and funk of a bygone era, complete with detailed liner notes, interviews with Anthony and vintage photos, ads and handbills. For souls of a different flavor, Psych of the South Records released "Lost Souls Vol. 3 Arkansas Garage Psychedelic Rock 1963-1971," its latest installment mining the Natural State's psychedelic rock nuggets. As with previous volumes, this edition was culled from 45s that were released on regional labels such as Clark, Silver-Dollar, Zay-Dee and others, as well as acetates and reel-to-reel tapes of rehearsals and shows. Much of this stuff had been gathering dust in somebody's box of forgotten dreams for the last 40-plus years, until Psych of the South owner Harold Ott came along to help this music see light of day once more.
Back in April, the Arkansas Arts Center announced its hire for director: Todd Herman. Times arts writer Leslie Newell Peacock profiled Herman in July. Her impression: "His passion for art is palpable and infectious and bound to stir donors into shelling out, which is exactly what the Arts Center needs." One of Herman's most important tasks in the near future will be to ensure that AAC doesn't lose prestige in the wake of the recently opened Crystal Bridges.
Bonnie Montgomery was everywhere this year: The Searcy native went to New York City so she could stage a reading of "Billy Blythe," her opera about a day in the life of an adolescent Bill Clinton, and stayed for a while and played a bunch of shows at all kinds of hip nightclubs and speakeasies. She recorded a radio concert and went on MSNBC and appeared in the pages of The New York Observer and Huffington Post and TIME and The New Yorker and several other publications. Upon returning, Bonnie got right back to it, playing all over the state with Montgomery Trucking, her country-rockabilly hybrid outfit, and beginning a collaboration with another internationally known Searcy native, Brace Paine (A.K.A. Nathan Howdeshell) of the band Gossip.
In 2011, we saw several venues close, open and move to new locations. The nonprofit Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative, which had changed locations three times in about as many years, ceased operation with a spokesman citing "a crisis in existence" as the reason. Capi's — the Nuevo Latino restaurant and bar in West Little Rock — closed in September. The Underground, a River Market stalwart, closed in June. And The Village, the former movie theater dome on Asher and University avenues, closed earlier in the year. Twelve Modern Lounge opened on Markham in Capitol View, in the space that once housed the short-lived Star Bar, and Juanita's moved to the River Market.