Progressive string quartet, Arkansauce, is thrilled to independently release their 5th album, OK to Wonder, TODAY April 21. With 11 original tracks—ranging from upbeat and stimulating to contemplative and encouraging—the collection is filled with songs of revelry, wonder, insight, and whimsy. Arkansauce is Tom Andersen on bass, guitarist Zac Archuleta, Ethan Bush on mandolin, and Adams Collins on banjo.
The Roanoke Times calls them “Hot bluegrass ramblers” and AmericanaUK says, “That’s a bluegrass line-up right there – but this isn’t your grandpappy’s bluegrass.” Their music features improvisational string leads matched with complex melodies, intriguing rhythms, and deep thumping bass grooves. Each member sings lead and harmony parts as well as contributes to the lyrics, which offer authentic, intelligent songwriting with hard-hitting hooks.
This progressive string quartet’s distinct blend of newgrass calls forth the sounds of the Ozark Mountains' rolling hills and wild rivers. Inspired not only from their home state of Arkansas, but also throughout their travels, Ethan says, “We are a band that spends most of our time in the back of a van hurtling toward long nights, good times, and a destiny unknown. Our inspiration is gathered by events unfolding in our own adventures in real time.”
Uptempo bluegrass number “My Home in Arkansas,” the album’s 2nd single, was premiered by The Bluegrass Situation, called a “snappy bluegrass cut” by the Americana Music Association in their weekly newsletter, is on Spotify's “Fast Grass” Playlist, and is listed in The Alternate Root Magazine’s Top Ten Songs of the Week. Andersen says, “The song came to me after a Bill Monroe bender. It’s a straight-forward bluegrass song about the road and the yearnings for home—with a few twists and turns on the arrangement, as any road worth traveling would have.”
Album opener, and 1st single, “Up on the Shelf,” was premiered by Glide Magazine who says, “Strong lyricism, warm harmonies, and impressive solos abound throughout this track.” Ethan describes it as, “a rowdy song about a wild night out that gradually became a much more in depth picture of the ups and downs of a relationship; I aimed to maintain the spirit of the original concept, while trying to depict the stress that partnerships may bring through an honest and unique lens.” After the song’s release, “Up on the Shelf” was almost immediately placed into Spotify’s “Indie Bluegrass” Playlist and has received airplay on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction.
“First Night of the Tour” sings the result of the band learning the “rules of the road” through trial and error on their first few tours. The stimulating “Coldiron” was inspired by a close friend of the band who uprooted himself at an early age to move to a remote, old family property where he didn’t know a soul and ambitiously forged a bountiful and fulfilling life.
A song of reflection and reminiscing, the title lyrics can be heard in the Hartford-esque “How Time Flies.” My oh my how time flies… Is this the way I wanted things to be… I simply cannot decide… Who in the hell is behind those eyes… I guess it’s okay to wonder until the day I die… Hold on to what you got for now and let time take care of the rest.” The song is meant to help us find some peace in the space between trying to chase down our dreams and deciding to alter our path.
“I'll Be Yours” gives encouragement to the underdogs of the world while the empathetic and anthemic “Early Bird” shines and welcomes you to join in. Zac says, “Written during the heat of the pandemic after my father-in-law, a truck driver whose CB handle was ‘Early Bird,’ passed away from covid. Everything seemed so dark that I wanted to write a song about light and hope with a lot of harmonies and uplifting melodies. My dad actually passed away a few months after, and it ended up being a song for myself in a way.”
“Big City Chicken” is the first of four instrumentals on the album, and it celebrates getting back on the road after the first year of the pandemic. Ethan says, “It was written while watching my chickens peck around my backyard during those first few weeks of quarantine. Performing on the road later felt as if I was finally weaponizing the creativity birthed in that time and space.” Americana Highways’ Jon Apice calls the song “searing & saturated with backwoods vibrancy. The inter-picking shimmer of the notes is invigorating. Flatt & Scruggs would be proud.”
Adams composed the other three instrumentals and says, "At some point, I became obsessively interested in how a four-piece bluegrass group might emulate various styles of drum grooves and rhythms. ‘Bim Batta’ is influenced by 80s electro and hip hop, while ‘The Funky Gorilla’ is influenced by Stanton Moore's New Orleans funk approach.” The delightful “Air Bender” leads the listener into a magical country western jaunt with its undulating banjo as the album's final track.
OK to Wonder was recorded in Fayetteville at Crisp Recording Studio with engineer Darren Crisp, James Tuttle [Leftover Salmon, The String Cheese Incident, Hot Rize, Michael Franti, Cary Morin] on the mix, and Brad Sarno [Son Volt, Jay Farrar] for the mastering. Previous albums include All Day Long (2015), Hambone (2016), If I Were You (2017), and Maybe Someday (2019).
WATCH Arkansauce interview about OK to Wonder on the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette What’s Up video podcast with music writer Monica Hooper. They performed three songs: “Up on the Shelf,” “My Home in Arkansas,” and “Coldiron.” NWA’s Monica Hooper says the songs, “bear the hallmarks of quintessential Arkansauce tunes: They're fun to sing along with and give each member of the band time to flex his considerable picking skills.”
Arkansauce has a hearty tour schedule lined up for the year including hometime release shows in Oklahoma and Arkansas for (including the Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain Festival). They have Spring shows in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana, and around the Front Range of Colorado. Further Festivals include Sustain Art & Music Festival (IN), FreshGrass Bentonville (AR),, Weekend at The Cave (IL), Rhythms on the Rio (CO), Lovegrass Music Fest (KS), FreshGrass North Adams (MA), and Annapolis Baygrass Festival (MD), with more shows yet to be announced!
For more information, a full list of tour dates, and news from the road please visit www.arkansaucemusic.com, www.facebook.com/ArkansauceMusic, & www.instagram.com/arkansaucemusic.