Most casual Hall & Oates fans won't know what to do with "Arkansas," John Oates solo album. Where's the big '80s production? Where are those splashy, MTV-ready videos? If it's anything like the '80s, that would be the 1880s.
"Arkansas" is John feeling his folk oats, which are a far sonic stretch from his high-paying pop gig with one of pop music's most popular duos. Whereas Daryl Hall leads Hall & Oates with strikingly blue-eyed soul vocals, Oates sings with a more rootsy, sandpaper-y tone. These album tracks range from the gospel sentiment of "Lord Send Me," to the gospel sound of "Pallet Soft and Low."
While Oates won't likely wow too many with his singing abilities (it's obvious Hall is the better vocalist of the two), the musicianship is impressive; there's some mighty fine picking throughout. And with "Stack O Lee," fine playing along Oates' playful singing, make for the perfect match.
Most of the instrumentation is acoustic, although "Dig Back Deep" cranks it up a notch. Granted, this does not add up to Led Zeppelin loud. Nevertheless, it's loud in contrast to the rest of the project. The jaunty "Anytime" is more representative of this album's overall musical tone.
Unlike Hall & Oates music, which is built for world-conquering hit potential, one gets the sense Oates recorded "Arkansas" simply for the love of the music alone. He sounds like he had a lot of fun creating it, which makes it a very easy album to love.