Arkansas lost two of its native sons this year — rockabilly legend Albert Austin “Sonny” Burgess, and country music superstar and arguably the most gifted musician the state ever birthed, Glen Campbell — but 2017 wasn’t all downcast. In fact, there were a lot of positives in the year that was.
We saw several local musicians get some national recognition (including doom-prog rockers Pallbearer and alternative rock group Welles), hit Nashville (Ashtyn-Nilsen Barbaree; Ashley McBryde) and a score of other acts working hard in touring, writing and recording in an effort to continue to make our regional music scene the best it can be.
As we approach the new year, we wanted to take a look back at our favorite moments.
The year began with a bang, with the Ozark-born Welles releasing their debut single Are You Feeling Like Me? The track was the lead single from the group’s debut EP titled “Codeine.”
As spring came, and the weather changed moods, a number of positive events took place, such as the opening of a new music venue, the emergence of the area’s hottest new R&B act, and the release of, in our opinion, one of the best albums of the year.
Little Rock R&B group Dazz & Brie, one of the coolest acts in Arkansas, won the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase in March. Since then, the group has released the stellar “You Can’t Chase Girls and Your Money Too,” have toured coast to coast, and have even sat in as special guests on a Shindigmusic podcast.
March also saw the announcement of the JBGB free summer concert series. The 1,200-seat outdoor venue located in Fayetteville welcomed acts such as Bob Schneider, The Record Company and the Casey Donahew Band. Confirmed acts for 2018 include country music duo Locash.
HOTTEST WINTER/SPRING MUSIC RELEASES | The Too’s – Outer Sounds | Pallbearer – Heartless | Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo – Femi-Socialite | Chris Maxwell – Arkansas Summer | Welles – Codeine | National Park Radio – Old Forests | 607 – New Wave Arkansas | Glen Campbell – Adios | Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar | The Squarshers – Won’t Settle Down
Central Arkansas prog-metal overlords, Pallbearer, released the critically acclaimed “Heartless” in March. The album, which features titles such as I Saw the End, Thorns and A Plea for Understanding, landed on a number of year-end best of lists, and was in heavy rotation throughout the year for many on the Shindig staff.
In April, Fayetteville rocker Shawn James saw his song Flow hit one million views on YouTube. The track was released September 2016 and was filmed at The Icehouse in Bentonville. Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo released their debut EP, “Femi-Socialite,” and it quickly became a favorite among Shindig readers and staff.
May also saw Welles release the music video for their track Life Like Mine. The video, directed by Mafalda Millies, features the band in a surrealistic, post-apocalyptic daze, in a possible nod to Flaming Lips. The song would also go on to receive heavy rotation around the Shindig offices. Also in May, BiK FLiQQr released their final album. The band broke up shortly after its release. We were sad to see them go.
As spring became the summer, we transitioned from FayetteSound to Shindigmusic. It wasn’t only a name change, it was an expansion of our coverage. We’re happy to report that we’re now a multi-faceted, integrated media website that provides updates on what’s happening statewide and in our surrounding regional areas to keep you better informed of what’s going on in your music scene. But enough about us.
Several of our favorites released great records this summer. In June, Arkansauce put out “If I Were You” and went on to play the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, two nights at Homegrown and a stellar set at Hillberry. Fayetteville heavies Auric released the excellent “First and Last” while Beth Ditto stepped out from Gossip to release her killer debut LP “Fake Sugar,” and sadly, Glen Campbell bid us all adieu with his final record, “Adios.”
The Highberry Music Festival made its debut on The Farm in Eureka Springs and featured sets by Darkstar Orchestra, Dopapod, The Floozies, Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings, and a now legendary late night surprise by Handmade Moments.
June also saw Welles hit the national stage at Bonnaroo (and later rock a run of dates with Royal Blood and Greta Van Fleet), Shawn James gained a Mesa Boogie endorsement and the Murphy Arts District in El Dorado opened to much celebration.
HOTTEST SUMMER MUSIC RELEASES | ESC – ESC | Arkansauce – If I Were You | Issac Alexander – Like A Sinking Stone | Auric – First and Last | Big Piph – Celebrate | Couch Jackets -Sayonara Oblongata | Mark Currey – Tarrant County | Escape Tones – Dead Pixels | Big Boots – Big Boots | Dylan Earl – New Country To Be
August saw the long awaited return of Evanescence, and Guns N’ Roses brought their massively successful “Not In This Lifetime” reunion tour to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Homegrown On The River Music Festival returned with three days of stellar performances by Arkansauce, White Denim, Vintage Pistol, Couch Jackets and Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo. And the month had some heavy, notable deaths, including that of Campbell and Burgess.
In September, Dylan Earl released the absolutely excellent “New Country To Be,” Caleb Ryan Martin played the Grand Ole Opry, and our very own country music badass, Ashley McBryde, signed with Warner Music Nashville. Shindigmusic threw a party at George’s that month with “A Night at the Garden” which featured performances from Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo, Terminus and Vintage Pistol, along with DJ sets from Fractal Sky, ИO.F^CES and AttA.
In October, The Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival returned to The Farm in Eureka Springs with outstanding sets by local favorites The Squarshers, Handmade Moments, Arkansauce and Sad Daddy. Shindigmusic was in attendance hosting another Shindig late-night jam featuring newcomers Red Oak Ruse, Opal Agafia and members of The Squarshers, Arkansauce, Foley’s Van, Handmade Moments among others. We always have a great time down on the farm.
November saw Welles make their national TV debut on Last Call with Carson Daly and Lucero played a pair of shows at George’s (and Ben Nichols’s solo tune Loving got nominated for a GRAMMY, to boot). In December, Cotton Plant native and the “Godmother of Rock and Roll” Sister Rosetta Tharpe, was chosen for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
HOTTEST FALL/WINTER MUSIC RELEASES | Evanescence – Synthesis | Recognizer – Recognizer | Country Florist – Waveland | Dazz & Brie – Can’t Chase Girls & Your Money Too | The Salty Dogs – Goodnight | Kari Faux – Primary | SUMOKEM – The Guardian Of Yosemite | bLAck pARty – Demos 2017 | Judgemental – Empires Fall | Kevin Kirby – Your Loyal Deserter
Overall, we’d say it was a pretty excellent year for local music in our area and we’re really looking forward to what 2018 has in store.