John Oates & The Good Road Band
Music From an Abandoned Luncheonette Jukebox In Big Pink.
Hmmmmmm; I’m always deeply suspicious when a Million Selling Megastar suddenly ‘finds’ a long lost love of Roots Music and gets to release a very ‘alright’ album in a blitz of publicity; much to the detriment of acts that tread the boards around the country every night of the week trying to make a living with very similar; but original material.
Now that bit’s out of the way; I hadn’t realised that this John Oates was actually THE John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, because the disc didn’t have a Press Release with it……you clever clogs Del Day!
So, it was with no preconceptions I slipped the disc into the car stereo on a cold and sunny January morning and let the music do its business.
I’m no real fan of Bluegrass but the gentle Anytime which opens the record was a very pleasant surprise indeed; with some sweet picking from the Good Road Band and a singer who sounds like he’s been around the block a time or two (if only I had known!).
This is followed by an Oates original, the title track Arkansas with it’s edgy mandolin as lead instrument. Hmm, hmm, hmm….. this is as cool a slice of Southern Roots as I’ve heard in quite a few years. Gorgeous harmonies and a band that must be steeped in the traditions of The Band, coupled to that ‘road-worn’ voice again; and the scene was set for a lovely day out in the Northern hills.
John Oates claims ‘this is the album that he has always wanted to make’ and that may be true; especially the way he has arranged hoary old Folk songs like My Creole Belle, Stack O Lee and Lord Send Me; breathing new life into each and possibly introducing them to a whole new generation or at least group of music lovers.
I actually had four new albums in the car that day; and this one stayed in the stereo as it just seemed the perfect soundtrack to my car journey; especially the ornery Dig Back Deep and the other John Hurt classic Spike Driver Blues; which features some really mean finger-picking geetar.
I’ve not had much time to play my old Blues albums lately so RMHQ ‘Favourite Track’ status falls on Blind Blake’s That’ll Never Happen No More, which is a song I’ve loved for many a year but, in fairness the original isn’t really ‘easy on the ear’ is it? So John Oates Ragtime version is the overall winner on an album that has surprised and delighted me in equal measures over the last week.
Perhaps this album will finally make me reassess my feeling towards Big Time Charlie’s muscling in our little world; but then again it will get Roots Music a little byline in our national newspapers and magazines, won’t it?
Released February 2nd 2018