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Friday, January 28, 2011

Black Oak Arkansas - High On The Hog (1973 us, excellent tough southern rock)

This is probably the best-known album in the Black Oak Arkansas catalog, thanks in large to part to its hit cover of the LaVern Baker R&B classic "Jim Dandy." This effective update combines a countrified touch, some electric guitar fireworks, and a frenetic double-time tempo with the inimitable hillbilly vocals of Jim "Dandy" Mangrum to create a song that became a hit with both country and pop listeners. It is definitely High on the Hog's undisputed highlight, but the other tracks surrounding it also have plenty to offer.

Although they were too eccentric a band to fit a strict "Southern rock" label Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas did have an ability to dish up both country and rock sounds with style. For instance, "Red Hot Lovin'" is a punchy rocker about the joys of loving a red-haired woman, while "Back to the Land" is a tribute to rural life delivered in a convincing, pure country style. Elsewhere, the group also shows a surprisingly ability to mix elements of pure funk into their country-rock stew: "Swimmin' in Quicksand" glides along on some funky wah-wah guitar licks that could have been lifted from a Funkadelic record.

The band also gets a solid showcase for their chops on "Moonshine Sonata," a tasty little instrumental that starts off as sprightly country-rock rave-up before shifting into a down-home ballad tempo for a surprisingly lovely and mellow finale. In the end, High on the Hog probably won't appeal to anyone who isn't already a Southern rock fan, but anyone who enjoys this genre will find plenty to like on this album.
by Donald A. Guarisco

1. Swimmin' In Quicksand - 3:20
2. Back To The Land - 2:26
3. Movin' - 3:13
4. Happy Hooker - 5:28
5. Red Hot Lovin' - 2:47
6. Jim Dandy - 2:39
7. Moonshine Sonata - 5:27
8. Why Shouldn't I Smile - 2:23
9. High 'N' Dry - 2:27
10. Mad Man - 3:49

Black Oak Arkansas
*James "Jim Dandy" Mangrum - Vocals
*Ricky Reynolds - Twelve Sring Guitar, Vocals
*Harvey Jett - Lead Guitar, Banjo, Piano, Vocals
*Stan Knight - Lead Guitar, Steel Guitar, Organ, Vocals
*Tommy Aldridge - Drums

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