Arkansauce released Maybe Someday on Thanksgiving day, their fourth album since 2014. The Fayetteville, AR-based folk/newgrass quartet delivers new crowd favorites and refined technical tightness. By the album release show at George’s Majestic Lounge on December 6th, the crowd was already singing along to the newly recorded tunes.
Arkansauce lives in the new-newgrass camp, not raised on traditional front porch pickin’ bluegrass. Instead, the group members discovered a love for the bluegrass sound through progressive bluegrass music festivals like Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Fest and bands like Leftover Salmon, Hot Rize, and Railroad Earth. Their sound has evolved from college-town folk-tales to now paralleling the sounds of other newgrass-inspired groups like Kitchen Dwellers, Trampled by Turtles, and Billy Strings. Though Arkansauce’s sound is influenced by the band members’ jazz, classical, rock, punk, and folk backgrounds, their latest album exhibits a commitment to and better understanding of bluegrass traditions. Michael Schembre, Eureka Springs, AR-based fiddle player from Opal Agafia and Red Oak Ruse, plays on “Diamonds and Gold,” “Revelry,” and “Get In Where You Fit In” adding another layer to their bluegrass sound.
Maybe Someday also features traditional folk song genres like the crime ballad with “Time, Tears, and Money” and a rambling man song with “Long Road Blues.” “Time Tears and Money” is Arkansauce’s crime ballad, narrating the story of a child thief. “Long Road Blues” is their rambling man song, claiming “if we don’t get old, this won’t get old.”
Don’t look away at 1:43 and miss the song’s alternative lyrics.
Throughout Arkansauce’s discography, their songs showcase Ozark Mountain vignettes about friends on the wrong side of the law, trust-betrayed partners, indoctrinated parents, doting love stories, and favorite regional hangouts. Maybe Someday‘s lyrics include more intrapersonal self-talk and hopeful affirmations. Ethan Bush, founding member and mandolin player, wrote most of the songs on the album. His folky writing style is reminiscent of the Avett Brothers in that it is introspective, confessional, yet simultaneously uplifting.
Bush comments on the grounding nature of our burdens in the song “Already Run” when he sings, “learn to walk with your chains instead of running blind and free.” The reflective tune describes how the weight of our mistakes helps guide us to understand who and what we value most. I love the line, “I’ve got a long list of apologies that I don’t share with anyone; I’ve not grown cold enough to want the warmth I might receive in return.” The song continues explaining the desire to put his partner’s perceived needs above his with, “I turn my head around, try to listen first, I just don’t want to cause more trouble than I’m worth.”
“Revelry” falls under the “live life to the fullest” song genre. While the #YOLO trope can sometimes be one-sided, pseudo-uplifting, and prescriptive, “Revelry” is instead an internal dialogue between positive self-talk and a high achiever’s anxiety about the future. This conflict is illustrated by dramatic minor chords and the song’s ping-ponging between examinations of the past and inspirational poster quotes like “climb the mountains you’ve been climbing in your dreams.”
“Get In Where You Fit In,” expresses disdain for contentment and complacency. The song explains the train will leave you if you’re not pulling your weight and is simultaneously prescriptive and self-talk. Check out Arkansauce’s live performance from Floydfest 2019.
With each of Arkansauce’s members currently in long-term relationships, this album explores the nitty-gritty parts of relationships, rather than newfound infatuation like in older Arkansauce songs like “Lucky Me” and “Paralyzed.” The title track, written by Tom Andersen (bass), states “you say these days I don’t act like myself so why don’t you go ahead and tell me who the hell have I been,” and “now here we go again right back to where we started.” I interpret the song “Maybe Someday” to be about the crossroads most long-term relationships go through with the question “where do we go from here.”
Maybe Someday is the band’s third album since Tom Andersen (Bass) and Adams Collins (Banjo) joined 2014. The album entrancingly showcases the group’s developed tightness and complexity in the two instrumental pieces, “Roadtrip” and “Rat Rod,” both composed by Collins.
Arkansauce doesn’t have a drummer, yet “The Business End” features Collins on vibraphone. Collins holds a master’s degree in the vibraphone from the University of CO at Boulder. Anderson explains, “Vibraphone shares with banjo a four-note chord voicing [four strings/four mallets] and a bell-like timbre. Beyond that, the technique is entirely different. I don’t know anyone else that is adept at both.” I’m personally waiting to see a Mike Dillon sit-in and dueling vibraphones.
Arkansauce has three more shows in Arkansas to close out the year, including New Year’s Eve at Harry’s Downtown in Fort Smith, AR. They have multiple national and festival dates for 2020, as well as a European tour coming up in the spring (demonstrating they do know where to go from here). Check out my favorite album of the year on Spotify, Itunes, Apple Music, etc.
PHOTO CREDIT: Festy Panda Photography