Sunday, 25 January 2009

State Songs #4: Arkansas

Photo: StuSeeger @ Flickr

After an easy musical run through the first three states of the journey I admit to struggling slightly with Arkansas. The state's tourist office promotes it as a fine destination for hunting and bird watching but these activities have inspired few visiting songwriters.

MP3: The New Lost City Ramblers - The Arkansas Sheik

The NLCR were pivotal in the late 50s and 60s folk revival and Mike Seeger and John Cohen remain excellent raconteurs of that era. This is from their 1966 album Remembrance of Things to Come. The original liner notes sum up the song's subject: "A version of a popular theme in mountain music, ie that Arkansas is the worst place of all".
More New Lost City Ramblers: Wikipedia | Amazon

MP3: Hayes Carll - Little Rock

Carnival Saloon favourite Hayes Carll is less down on Arkansas. In the title track from his first album he's travelled through most of the States looking for his woman before heading down to Little Rock.
More Hayes Carll: Carnival Saloon | official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell - A Little Girl From Little Rock

A gem from an Oxford American compilation. Monroe and Russell perform the song in Howard Hawks' film 1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
More Monroe: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: REM - Texarkana

There are plenty of songs about Texas so I'm favouring Texarkana's Arkansas side. Although there's no mention of the town in the lyrics at least one person who's been there reckons it "captures the mood of the city". Some REM trivia - this is one of two Out of Time tracks that bassist Mike Mills sings lead vocal on (the other's Near Wild Heaven).
More REM: official site | Amazon | 7digital

MP3: Bruce Springsteen - Mary Queen of Arkansas

The Boss makes his debut on the trip with a wordy track from debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. Bruce doesn't seem keen to stay in Arkansas for long - he knows a place in Mexico where they "can get a good job and start all over again clean". Is this the first of Bruce's many Marys?
More Bruce: official site | Amazon | 7digital

Further suggestions of Arkansas songs most welcome. There are no American states that begin with B so next time we're goin' out west where the wind blows tall...

Related Posts
State Songs #1: Alabama - Cat Power, Billie Holiday, Jim White, Joan Baez, Shelby Lynne and, of course, Lynryd Skynyrd.
State Songs #2: Alaska - Michelle Shocked, Johnny Cash, Port O'Brien, Dan Bern, The Velvet Underground
State Songs #3: Arizona - Wilco, Glen Campbell, The DeZurik Sisters, Dimitri Tiomkin and Public Enemy


Marlon Pierce said...

Great series--I suggest adding the version of "Arkansas Traveler" by Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant.

Here it is on Amazon.

Trevor said...

How about Australian group, Axiom's 'Arkansas Grass'? It features the vocals of Glenn Shorrock pre- Little River Band.

Anonymous said...

Kelly Harrell's "John Johanna," on the Anthology of American Folk Music.
"Through ups and downs and miseries, and some good days I saw, but I never knew what misery was till I came to Arkansas."

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