My first serving of Arkansas home-cooked musicianship, arriving in answer to one of my many emails intended to aid me on my quest to discover the state’s music scene, comes from (the wonderfully named) city of Jonesboro, in the form of Ocho For Willow, the debut album by Starroy.
Built on the talents of four men — Adam Barnard (Acoustic, Vocals), Barry Fowler (Lead Guitar, Percussion), Justin Henry (Bass, Rhythm Guitar), and Heath Finch (Drums, Percussion) — the band manages a deep and wonderfully textured southern-rock sound — something like a mixture created from an equal parts The Allman Brothers Band and Blues Traveler, if I had to describe it.
Then again, I could just as simply say that it rocks. That works, too.
According to the band’s myspace page, they’ve survived the last two years solely on live recordings and the reputation they’ve earned as being one of the hardest working/touring bands in the state of Arkansas. How hard working? It seems that the boys managed to tour twelve states, fifty-plus cities, for a combined total of more then 170 official dates spanning from 2005 to 2006.
Yeah, I’d say that’ll earn you respect.
From June until December of 2006, though, the band found themselves at the Fox Mountain Studios in Nashville, Tenn., writing and recording the album that eventually became Ocho For Willow with Brad Vosburg (producer of The Meat Puppet’s Too High To Die) at the controls.
Going by the wonderful melodies floating through my ears at the moment, those seven months were time well spent. Ocho For Willow is a lovely gumbo of acoustic melodies, instrumental jams, flat out rock and roll, thick and syrupy guitar-driven grooves, and some damned fine vocal performances.
How these guys managed to stay independent and not get swept off their feet by rushing hordes of major record labels is beyond me. I’m not complaining, though. Whatever roads Adam, Barry, Justin, and Heath have traveled in order to arrive at this point — and at this album — is a journey well worth all their effort.
If this column has piqued your interest even a little, do me a favor and head on over to Starroy’s myspace page. While you’re there, sit back a while and listen to the music they have made available for you to enjoy, and then do yourselves a huge favor and purchase yourself a copy of Ocho For Willow.
Ocho For Willow's track-listing:
02. Lil' Ditty
04. New Day
05. The Spot
06. War Cry
10. Without Warning
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me babble about my first experience with what Arkansas has to offer me, on my quest to discover music from the Natural State. My only hope is that I’ve done Starroy’s music justice, and that each band to follow is even half as talented as this one turned out to be.