Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas

There would’ve been no David Lee Roth had Black Oak Arkansas frontman and washboard player Jim “Dandy” Mangrum never been born. Roth’s flowing locks, shirtless backbends, and sassy command aped Dandy to a turn. But, unlike Roth, Dandy and his hometown-named band were true Southern originals who were sometimes dismissed as hillbillies. Yes, Dandy can sound like someone’s kooky gin-swilling uncle from the Delta telling mad stories around a campfire (“The Hills of Arkansas,” which soars on harmonies and pedal steel guitar), but other times he’s the inescapable leader of a rock ’n’ roll chain-gang (“Hot and Nasty”). “Uncle Elijah”—the redemptive yarn of knife-wielding gambler—is really amped-up country with a killer shuffle and lots of picking. The pretty “Memories at the Window” is hardly Southern rock; rather, it’s a folky gaze at nostalgia wrapped in a bit of West Coast psych (this 1971 debut album was recorded in L.A.). Dandy raises tent-revival hellfire on “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul,” and he and the band get downright poppy—in a winning, almost satirical way—on “Singing the Blues.”


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