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12 Arkansas Bands You Should Listen To Now

May 16, 2012  |  11:20am
12 Arkansas Bands You Should Listen To Now

I know what you’re thinking: “Music from Arkansas? It’s got to be just a bunch of hillbillies singing through toothless mouths and stomping bare feet.” It’s unfortunate that Arkansas suffers from such negative (and highly inaccurate) stereotypes because the state hosts a vibrant and diverse music scene.

Historically it’s home to greats like Johnny Cash, Al Green and Levon Helm. The current state of Arkansas music is so rich, in fact, that paring this list down to a mere 12 was no easy task. That being said, here in alphabetical order, is just a taste of some of the many great acts making music in the Natural State today.

1. Adam Faucett
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Photo by Erin Lang

Hometown: Little Rock
Current Release: More Like a Temple (2011)
Short in stature with a massive beard and bottle-cap thick glasses, Adam Faucett might give off the impression that his music is characterized by beautiful poem songs. But nothing can prepare you for the sound that comes out of his mouth when he sings—or bellows—his stellar songwriting. It is a soulful power beyond belief.

2. Amasa Hines
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Hometown: Little Rock
Members: Joshua, Josh Spillyards, Judson Spillyards, Ryan Hitt, Norman Williamson, Matt Rice
Current Release: “Earth and Sky” single (2012)
So far, Amasa Hines has only released one track, but what a song it is. “Earth and Sky” is all things good: soulful, funky and rockin’. Lead singer Joshua sings a multi-tracked church choir intro over the pounding beat before ripping into the passion-fueled verse. And Norman Williamson’s swanky saxophone solo? Damn. If this single isn’t enough (it’s not), don’t despair. The group is currently finishing up their debut album, so stay on the lookout.

3. Bonnie Montgomery
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Hometown: Little Rock
Current Release: Live at the Cake Shop (2011)
Bonnie Montgomery may be known for her warm country voice and her timeless folkie songwriting, but her talents don’t stop there. She’s also a classically trained opera singer who co-authored a one-act folk opera called Billy Blythe about the early life of Arkansas native Bill Clinton. When Montgomery needs that extra push for her music, she can be found performing with her full band, Montgomery Trucking.

4. Booyah! Dad
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Hometown: Little Rock
Members: Lieutenant Top, Sargent Warr, Commander Conder
Current Release: Ride the Whale EP (2011)
Think LCD Soundsystem meets Tenacious D. Booyah! Dad is all about letting your belly hang out, getting down and having fun. With song titles like “Ass Party” and “Poppin’ and Lockin’ (At the Country Show),” how can you go wrong?

5. Brother Andy & His Big Damn Mouth
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Hometown: Little Rock
Members: Brother Andy, Chad Conder, Johnny D
Current Release: Hell’s Angels (2011)
Big, hard, loud and mean. Brother Andy spits his sermon from behind his fire-red beard while guitars wail like a demon siren and drums pound out the rhythm of the coming apocalypse. But just when you think BA&HBDM is all fire and brimstone, you get a ballad like “Ghost Flames.”

6. The Coasts
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Hometown: Little Rock
Members: Eric Mount, Ike Peters
Current Release: The Coasts (2011)
This rock ’n’ roll duo makes minimalist music that doesn’t feel minimalist. The songs are straightforward and full of honesty and heart. Eric Mount and Ike Peters aren’t trying to pass themselves off as anything they’re not, touting themselves as “an all-guy band” and describing their music simply: “Guitar. Drums. Bass. We play them.” As honest as they may be, they’re selling themselves short.

7. Damn Arkansan
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Hometown: Fayetteville
Members: Will Eubanks, Chris Fletcher, Caleb Rose, Drew Walls
Current Release: Brave Mistakes EP (2012)
The music of alt-country heroes like Dawes and early Wilco flows through the veins of Damn Arkansan along with a little bit of Ben Kweller’s pop sensibility. The result is a breed of music that bridges the gap between Americana and indie rock. So far this year, they’ve released a five-song EP with a promise for more work scheduled to come out in the coming months.

8. Don’t Stop Please
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Photo by Wylie Whiteaker

Hometown: Conway
Members: Joel Ludford, Nick Caffrey, William Krzeszinski, Robert Gaiser, Will King, Anna Horton
Current Release: Brandy Swampland (2011)
The onstage presence of Don’t Stop Please is truly something to behold. With six members, all of them multi-instrumentalists, their performance area can get a little crowded. Their shows often resemble a circus act as they juggle instruments and change positions, often in the same song. But this is no novelty act. No musical terrain is off limits for Don’t Stop Please, whose music fits nicely into jazz, rock, funk, folk and/or bluegrass. Add that to the stellar songwriting and Anna Horton’s gorgeous Fiona Apple-esque vocals in tandem with frontman Joel Ludford’s own singing voice, and you’ve got it all.

9. The Holy Shakes
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Hometown: Hot Springs
Members: Bill Solleder, Brian Lee, Bobby Missile, Justin Castleberry
Current Release: Feast or Famine (2012)
These punks are true rock stars. Vocalist Bill Solleder shouts his lyrics as he saunters around the stage with a “don’t give a shit” swagger, eyes hidden behind dark Ray-Ban Wayfarers. The drums are heavy but precise and the guitar drives the music along, lashing out at just the right moments. The Holy Shakes have already made their mark in the local scene by winning this year’s Arkansas Times Music Showcase, and they don’t show signs of slowing up any time soon.

10. Messy Sparkles
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Hometown: Fayetteville
Members: JD Paul
Current Release: Feeling Good Forever (2011)
The man behind the moniker Messy Sparkles may resemble a Blonde on Blonde-era Bob Dylan, but his hipster electro-pop music would have shocked fans at the ’65 Newport Folk Fest much more than the legend’s electric set did. But if pressed to choose a widely celebrated influence, Messy Sparkles’s JD Paul would probably more quickly claim Paul Simon during his Graceland period. The young performer is also highly influenced by the work of groups like Animal Collective and Panda Bear, and he has been known to perform in his tighty whities.

11. Pagiins
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Hometown: Fort Smith
Members: Aaron Smith, Ben Evans, Brenna Sardina, Damon Tillotson, Leif Hinshaw, Robert Bishop
Current Release: Good Things Take Time EP (2012)
Pagiins are exactly what a good garage band should be. They’re loud and gritty and fun, but they don’t get lazy with their production. The vocals are easily discernible without feeling overly polished. You can hear the steady beat of the tambourine just as well as the thrashing guitars.

12. Teenagers
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Hometown: Fayetteville
Members: Travis Keymer, Chase Pagan, Robby Huckabee, Drew Wallis
Current Release: Debut album forthcoming
It’s a little difficult to classify Teenagers, but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it well. Self-described as pop/garage/lo-fi/rock/surf folk, the band only has two songs available at the moment, but both of them are gems. The singles are listed on their Bandcamp page under the title NEW ALBUM PREVIEW, so let’s hope the full record drops soon because I know I’m going to have these tracks on repeat until then.

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