Another epic year for Arkansas music has passed. From Elise Davis’ big year to the return of Deadbird and the rise of cassettes. Let’s take a look at some our picks for the best in Arkansas music!
ARTIST OF THE YEAR ELISE DAVIS
The Little Rock native and now Nashville-based singer-songwriter had a huge year. From a nearly nonstop touring schedule to the release of her stellar sophomore LP Cactus, her music was all over the place — and we couldn’t be happier. Her music is honest, emotional and powerful. And whether she is recalling upon previous relationships, pining for a new one, or just laying out her general outlook on life, Davis’s fresh approach to country music is exactly what the genre needs. Her rich storytelling helped her deliver what we consider to be the album of the year, and it’s well deserved. She leaves it all out in the open, which is what makes her work on Cactus so infectious and captivating.
But we also look forward to what we might see from her in 2019. In December, Davis announced a globetrotting tour schedule which will see her embark on a headlining tour, as well as a support tour with Donovan Woods — which will include a stop at Little Rock’s famed Sticky Fingerz in March. We are very proud of her accomplishments and can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.
BEST NEW ARTIST TINY TOWNS
Jonesboro’s Tiny Towns released their excellent self-titled debut EP in June and it quickly became of our most listened to releases of 2018.
Led by singer-guitarist Blayne Pillow, guitarist Trent Duff, drummer Jacob Brumley and bassist Christian Lee, Tiny Towns have a knack for finding the right groove and an infectious melody. The EP features five tracks of indie pop gold, including the standout tracks “Monroe,” and “Settle.” The wah drenched ache of “Anything but Me” is worth the listen alone.
With their new LP Deadweight set for release on January 1, the band is set to kick the new year off in grand style.
BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST JAMIE LOU & THE HULLABALOO
When we told you last year that Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo were the real deal, we weren’t messing around.
From winning the 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase to standout performances at festivals across the state including Valley Of The Vapors, Riverfest, Flux , Creekfest, Fayetteville Roots Fest, Musicfest 31, AMPFest, Bike Blues & BBQ and the Arkansas State Fair, Jamie Lou & the Hullabaloo cemented their reputation as one of the most explosive bands in the state.
With a brand new full length on the way, the band are set for a very BIG 2019!
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR DEADBIRD
Led by brothers Chuck and Phillip Schaaf, and featuring a who’s-who of Arkansas metal: CT (Rwake, Iron Tongue), Reid Raley (The Obsessed, Nachtmystium, Rwake), Alan Short (Seahag), and Jeff Morgan (Rwake), Deadbird, made a very welcomed return following an eight-year absence.
The announcement of the Arkansas metal icons imminent return caused quite the stir throughout the metal world this summer. In October the band released the absolutely devastating III: The Forest Within The Tree on 20 Buck Spin Records and the world listened in awe.
BEST LIVE ACT AMASA HINES
If you’ve never seen Amasa Hines live — much less heard their music — that’s OK. If you catch them at a show, you will walk away as a fan. There proabably aren’t enough adjectives to describe the experience of seeing Amasa Hines live. Their shows are cerebral. Vulnerable. Emotional. Spiritual. A religious experience. They’ve got the energy of an arena rock show. The intimacy of a solo theater gig. However you choose to describe it after you see one, you’ll be right.
The band was out and about a lot in 2018 in support of their excellent October release Ivory Loving Glass. They’re done touring for the year, but will be back out on the road again in 2019. They top our list of must-see acts each time they go out and the next time will be no different. Make plans to see them soon!
BEST FESTIVAL BACKWOODS AT MULBERRY MOUNTAIN
With an stacked lineup including STS9, The Floozies, GRIZ, Space Jesus, Papadosio, Jade Cicada, Zoogma, and Andy Frasco and the U.N., Backwoods Music Festival made a huge return following their 2017 hiatus.
On a local level, Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain hosted an eclectic mix of Arkansas talent that stood shoulder to shoulder with the bigger names on the bill. Standout performances included: Ryan Viser, Arkansauce, Deep Sequence, Jonteal, Fractal Sky, Groovement, Meesh, and Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings.
BEST VENUE ARKANSAS MUSIC PAVILION
From Janet Jackson, Ringo Starr, Weezer, The Pixies, Odesza, and Chris Stapleton to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dave Matthews Band, G Eazy and FUCKING SLAYER, The 2019 season at the Arkansas Music Pavilion was impressive to say the least.
With The Avett Brothers, Santana, and Leon Bridges already set for 2019, there’s no denying it reigns supreme as the #1 concert destination in Arkansas.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR ELISE DAVIS “Cactus”
Elise Davis doesn’t try to sugarcoat how she feels. Her music is honest, emotional and powerful. Whether the Little Rock native and now Nashville-based singer-songwriter is recalling upon previous relationships, pining for a new one, or just laying out her general outlook on life, Davis’s fresh approach to country music is exactly what the genre needs.
BEST LABEL TAPE DAD
One of the coolest things we’ve seen all year is the return of the cassette format and the rise of Fayetteville’s Tape Dad.
With reissues from local heroes Pagiins, The Chads, and Dylan Earl to new titles from Witchsister, Terminus, and The Phlegms, its been a busy, busy year for Kurt Alaska (Lost John, Magnolia).