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Premiere: John Oates sings “Stack O Lee,” from new CD, Arkansas

Stunning album celebrates American heritage

Photo: Philip Murphy

One half of Hall & Oates, the best-selling duo of all time, John Oates has maintained a successful solo career since 1999, while still continuing to tour worldwide with Daryl Hall. Solo, Oates has recorded six albums and the 2015 DVD docu-concert Another Good Road; he has written a memoir, Change of Seasons (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), and has produced albums for other artists. In addition, his new album, Arkansas, due out this February 2nd, promises to be one of his best works, and that’s a high bar.

Originally began as a tribute to Oates’ idol Mississippi John Hurt, the project evolved into a marvelous collection of Oates’ musical influences. With a band of Americana stars including father of Newgrass Sam Bush on mandolin, multi-instrumentalist Russ Pahl (Nathaniel Rateliff), on pedal steel Guthrie Trapp on electric guitar, Steve Mackey (Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Delbert McClinton, Wallflowers) on bass, Nathaniel Smith on cello, and Josh Day on drums and percussion, Oates  and the Good Road Band shine a light on American music from long before the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

Fresh interpretations include the 1924 Emmett Miller classic “Anytime” as well as the Jimmie Rodgers’ tune “Miss the Mississippi and You,” from 1932. Re-imagined traditional Delta, country blues and ragtime selections salute legendary artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Blake. Two new original songs by Oates blend seamlessly with the traditional roots material, as well as John’s deep catalog of Daryl Hall and John Oates hits. Taken together, Oates’ music becomes a retrospective of American popular song.

John Oates took a minute of out his busy schedule to tell us a bit about “Stack O Lee”: I first heard this song when it was a hit by Lloyd Price back in 1959, back then it was titled as “Stagger Lee.” This version is based on the Mississippi John Hurt rendition, which he called “Stack O Lee.” It has always been one of my favorite re-tellings of this classic story. Producing and recording it with a full band gives it a different feel and we started to take it into a more “rockabilly” place by adding a much more aggressive groove.


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