A load of talent has been born and bred within the borders of the state of Arkansas over time. From legends like Al Green, Glen Campbell, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash, to the modern day scene, Arkansans have been making music for the masses for quite some time.
As with the legends of the past, the new crop of talent is aiming to continue to sow the seeds of Arkansas culture into the fabric of music. That is never more evident than on the inaugural Bike Rack Records compilation that hit streaming services last month and will be released in a physical format on Friday at a formal launch party at The Record in Bentonville.
The release, officially titled Bike Rack Records, Vol. 1, plays to the strengths of Arkansas music in that it features 10 artists across multiple genres, to show the range that state’s musicians offer. The artists include Melody Pond, Brother Moses, Will Gunselman, Smokey & The Mirror, Jamie Lou & The Hullabloo, Ashtyn Barbaree, Kevin Kiehn, The Silver Lining, Josh Noren, and Emily Nance.
Believe us when we tell you that this album, curated by Jeff Charlson, partner and CEO of Bike Rack Brewing Co., and Neil Greenhaw, music producer and owner of Haxton Road Studios, and these artists, are going to be the new barometer of what to expect from popular music from this region. Here’s our track-by-track preview of Bike Rack Records Vol. 1:
Melody Pond – “The River”
Right out of the gate, you get a real solid dosage of Northwest Arkansas folk music from Melody Pond, a female duo consisting of Candy Lee (vocals, guitar, ukulele) and Emily Rowland (vocals, ukulele and percussion). The pair deliver what we describe as “country thump” with their thrilling single “The River.” The song finds them experimenting with their sound and digging deeper lyrically, which gives them a well-deserved chance to cast a wider net to attract a broader audience.
Brother Moses – “The Bushes”
The Fayetteville-born indie pop rockers may have moved on to New York, but their Arkansas roots remain. On “Bushes,” a song about a night out on the town in Fayetteville, the band reaffirms our devotion to their catchy sound and they do the same for their home city. The production on the tune lends a much better shine to vocalist James Lockhart’s often lengthy delivery.
Will Gunselman – “Buffalo River Run”
Holy cow, this is a killer one. We’ve spun this album a lot since its release, but we keep circling back to this particular tune. Not sure what it is about “Buffalo River Run,” but it’s got everything you need: sensible melodies, Springsteen or Petty-like lyrical craftsmanship and a pure, unadulterated spirit of Americana. It’s great.
Kevin Kiehn – “Let’s Talk About It”
What’s more to say about a perfectly crafted, radio-ready pop tune? Lyrically, Kevin Kiehn challenges his listener to get out of their comfort zone and do what they need to do to get that weight off of their chest. Musically, Kiehn approaches his tune with precision to ensure he plants a catchy enough hook that will turn into a lasting earworm.
The Silver Lining – “2000 Volts”
Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams would be proud of this one. So should The Silver Lining. The opening strains of tremolo and harmonica are enough to get you settled into this moody Alt-Americana track. Then the tender vocal harmonies kick in and you’re hooked. The Silver Lining hit a home run on this one.
Smokey & the Mirror – “Another Day Older”
Smokey & the Mirror know how to write great Americana. Combined with a dreamy, gentle instrumented backbone, this tune plays out like a storybook, as you traverse through life and grow old with the Fayetteville-based husband-and-wife duo Bryan and Bernice Hembree. “I’m another day older, I feel another day young,” the pair sing in the refrain, and if that isn’t relatable, we don’t know what is.
Josh Noren – “Burning Down This Room”
Josh Noren wears his heart on his sleeve and inserts his life into his music. He has a knack for finding a clever melody inside of a perfect pop song, and on the steamy “Burning Down This Room,” he does just that. This is a song ready to explode and an artist that is ready for the ride.
Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo – “Highway Men”
It’s been quite the year for Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo. From winning the 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase to wowing crowds at Valley of the Vapors, Flux, Riverfest and Creekfest, the Russellville quintet has been all over the map offering up their sound to the masses. And with “Highway Men,” they continue their modus operandi of crafting top-shelf songwriting. But not only is “Highway Men” a great song, it’s lyrical content is also timely, offering up a somewhat bleak take on the country’s often contentious response to the #MeToo movement.
“Some say you asked for this, some say you asked for a fight, walking into the room, by turning off all of the lights,” Hullabaloo frontwoman Jamie Lou Connolly sings on the chorus, in what is a reminder to us all that we need to do better and be better.
Emily Nance – “Robin Hood”
Emily Nance’s “Robin Hood” has everything it needs to succeed. Catchy hooks, angelic vocals and a dream-pop vibe that will rival any other of its kind. With “Robin Hood,” Nance could be the next vibrant voice on the pop music scene.
Ashtyn Barbaree – “Fades Away”
Barbaree’s enchanting voice and authentic approach to songwriting has made her a favorite around the Shindig offices. When she released her self-titled full-length debut this spring, she gave us six tracks of well-crafted indie-Americana. One of those songs was a tune titled “Fades Away,” and she’s reworked the track for her contribution to this compilation. Barbaree once again showcases her refreshing take on writing music and it may quietly be one of the best songs on the entire album. “Fades Away” serves as a great way to round out a stellar release and we can’t wait to see what the next batch of songs has in store.
The album will be available on vinyl for $30 at the event. Doors open at 6 p.m., and music is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Each artist is slated to perform their track for the compilation. The documentary film about the project will also be screened at the event Friday. General admission tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.
Watch the Bike Rack Records Documentary by Ozark Collective below.