THE NEW MUSIC OF ARKANSAS: WHERE WE ARE NOW – FIVE EMERGING ARTISTS FROM THE NATURAL STATE
Every city or state in the world is proud of its cultural heritage. Places like to shout loud about the people who put them on the map. Arkansas, of course, is no different. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Johnny Cash, Levon Helm… you’ll learn about musical legends like them when you visit The Natural State. But what of right now: who are the Arkansas artists making noise amidst the confusion of the modern world? Thanks to our relationship with Visit Arkansas, we’ve been able to embark on a deep dive of the place’s emerging musicians and bring you a state of the union on where the music or Arkansas resides today…
When The Arkansas Times said “few artists have the range of talent coupled with such dedication to their home state as Bonnie Montgomery,” The Natural State looked up and took notice. From roots in classical music, Montgomery has grown into a contemporary songwriter of some renown and continues to release music filled with melody and meaning. Winning ‘Entertainer of the Year’ at the 2020 Arkansas Country Music Awards solidified her stock and songs such as the fantastic ‘Forever’ and the southern rock of ‘You Can’t Shake’ are just two reasons why Bonnie Montgomery is one of the state’s finest performers.
A distinctive song stylist and collector, Willi Carlisle is an American folk singer who can draw a straight line from what he does to where it all comes from. Equally comfortable on banjo, accordion, fiddle and guitar, Carlile is a performer who makes the stage his own and his startling originality marks him out as one to watch. A singer of ballads and blues, he also has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Arkansas and has been hailed as “a storytelling titlan” by The Guardian.
Although Joe Purdy left Arkansas for California in 2001, The Natural State continues to leave its mark on the best of his music. Paying his dues by playing live and self-releasing albums, Purdy caught a big break in the middle of the new century when his music was heard by JJ Abrams, executive producer of TV’s ‘Lost’, and his lovely lament ‘Wash Away’ soundtracked a seminal scene from the hit show. Albums filled with rich and authentic Americana, such as ‘Eagle Rock Fire’ and ‘Who Will Be Next’, continue to spread the word of Purdy and his voice remains a signpost for Arkansas around the world.
Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, Adam Faucett is a songwriter to be reckoned with. Listen to the ominous guitar intro from ‘King Snake’ and you’ll find your mind’s eye wandering through the landscapes of The Natural State. And that’s before that voice arrives and sings its song straight to your soul. Tunes such as ‘Living On The Moon’ confirm his deep-rooted credentials and when The Arkansas Times describe him as “one of the most thoughtful lyricists the state has to offer,” it’s difficult to argue…
“Here to put the ‘try’ in country” goes the tagline and Nick Shoulders certainly belongs somewhere in the invisible republic of country music. Steeped in the dark and light of Arkansas history, Shoulders is an artist who looks into the blind eyes of his country’s history and his best music has a message to match the tunes. Rocky holler rock ‘n’ roll mixes with olde-time and country to create an Americana melting pot filled with such great songs as the high and lonesome ‘Hank’s Checkout Line’ and ‘Honey Let’s Stay In’…
Arkansas’s musical heritage is as diverse as the state’s landscape. From blues to folk, gospel to rockabilly, music has always been a part of life in The Natural State. For further information, please visit Arkansas Tourism Official Site.