Credit: Philip MurphyJohn Oates has just released a solo album titled Arkansas on which the Hall & Oates singer explores his lifelong love of American roots music. Oates tells ABC Radio that he initially conceived the project as a straight-up tribute to Mississippi Jon Hurt, one of his musical heroes, but “it evolved to become kind of a snapshot of the popular music in the late 1920s and 1930s.”

Oates tells ABC Radio he’s “very proud” of Arkansas, and that he thinks it’s “the best record I’ve ever made in terms of the work I’ve done by myself, and it stands right up there with anything I’ve done with Daryl [Hall] as well.”

John recorded Arkansas in Nashville on vintage analog equipment with a collective of “great, amazing” session musicians he’s dubbed The Good Road Band, among them the respected mandolin player Sam Bush.

In addition to various songs associated with Hurt, Arkansas includes covers of tunes by Jimmie Rodgers, Blind Blake and Emmett Miller, plus two original compositions — the title track and “Dig Back Deep.”

While much of the album features a stripped-down retro folk-blues sound, Oates points out that he arranged the song “Arkansas” with fuller instrumentation that leaned more “toward modern Americana.”

As for “Dig Back Deep,” John explains, “I wanted to collaborate with Mississippi John Hurt, whether he liked it or not…So, I kind of took some of the words of [the Hurt tune] ‘Sliding Delta’ and incorporated them into this song with an original chorus and a completely different melody and chords.”

John has just launched a solo trek with The Good Road Band in support of Arkansas that’s scheduled from a show tonight at Joe’s Pub in New York City through a March 16 concert in Dallas.

Here’s the Arkansas track list:

“My Creole Belle”
“Pallet Soft and Low”
“Miss the Mississippi and You”
“Stack O Lee”
“That’ll Never Happen No More”
“Dig Back Deep”
“Lord Send Me”
“Spike Driver Blues”

And here is Oates’ solo tour itinerary:

2/5 — New York, NY, Joe’s Pub
2/6 — Philadelphia, PA, World Cafe Live
2/8 — Chicago, IL, Old Town School of Folk Music
2/10 — West Hollywood, CA, Troubadour
2/11 — San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall
2/16 — St. Louis, MO, Old Rock House
2/18 — Annapolis, MD, Rams Head On Stage
2/23-25 — Greensboro, GA, Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee – “Live at the Lake” Weekend
2/27 — Decatur, GA, Eddie’s Attic
2/28 — Decatur, GA, Eddie’s Attic
3/2 — Charlotte, NC, Neighborhood Theatre
3/4 — Charleston, SC, Music Farm
3/15 — Houston, TX, The Heights Theater
3/16 — Dallas, TX , The Kessler

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