I have visions of Pentecostal snake handlers, banged up pick-up trucks running ‘shine’ everytime I hear a Black Oak Arkansas album.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Black Oak Arkansas
ALBUM: Black Oak Arkansas
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Jim ‘Dandy’ Mangrum – lead vocals, washboard * Pat Daugherty – bass * Harvey Jett – guitar, banjo, piano, vocals * Ricky Reynolds, Stan Knight – guitar * Wayne Evans – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Uncle Elijah * 02 Memories At The Window * 03 The Hills Of Arkansas * 04 I Could Love You * 05 Hot And Nasty * 06 Singing The Blues * 07 Lord Have Mercy On My Soul * 08 When Electricity Came To Arkansas
You couldn’t get much more Southern rock than these boys. They were the real deal. Raised with the fear of god, turned to rock & roll and stole from a local school to pay for equipment where they were arrested and eventually chased out of town, running for the hills and setting up camp in the deep woods of the Arkansas Ozarks.
I don’t know about you, but I have visions of Pentecostal snake handlers, banged up pick-up trucks running ‘shine’ through back roads and hot babes in cut-off jean shorts every time I hear a BOA album or ‘Jim Dandy’ on the radio. I know, stereotypical Southern culture but god almighty just take a look at some of their album covers and song titles and tell me I’m barkin’ up the wrong tree. Besides, the band wore their Southernisms like a badge of honor and their debut was no exception. Pass the grits and let’s dig in.
Now first of all, if you’ve never heard Black Oak Arkansas they were not as heavy as the name might suggest and here the sound is more country rock than bludgeon riffola. Produced by Lee Dorman and Mike Pinera of Iron Butterfly fame, ‘Uncle Elijah’ opens the proceedings and Jim Dandy’s gravely vocals can be a shocker for the uninitiated.
With pseudo-religious imagery and Dandy sounding like an old preacher shouting out fire and brimstone over a banjo and acoustic backdrop-this is weird stuff to be quite honest. The vibe on ‘Memories At The Window’ is just as odd with an obvious Allman Brothers influence, but BOA were nowhere near the talents of that exceptional band, lacking much in the finesse department almost as if they just picked up their instruments.
‘The Hills of Arkansas’ is almost laughable lyrically as is the albums hit ‘Hot And Nasty’ with plenty of deep fried sexual innuendo which turned out to be Dandy’s modus operandi. ‘Lord Have Mercy on My Soul’ combines Southern evangelism with psychedelic meanderings about karma and life, before turning into a full-blown gospel-influenced rock number.
I still don’t know what to make of ‘When The Electricity Came To Arkansas’ although I can tell you a washboard does not make for the best of sounds.. I do remember hearing a live version of this tune years ago with Dandy speaking in tongues or was it demonic laughter? I dunno, but it was actually pretty good and obviously a crowd pleaser.
From here Black Oak Arkansas became a huge live draw, playing every backwater town with a concert stage and influencing Southern rockers and one David Lee Roth for years to come. Although BOA are an acquired taste and not my thing really, I’ve kept this album over the years for the sheer weirdness of it all that from my experience goes better with a bottle of ‘Jack’ or at least that’s what I remember.
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