Arkansauce, independently released their 5th album, OK to Wonder, on April 21, 2023. Their music calls forth melodies of the Ozark Mountains’ rolling hills and raging rivers with their distinct blend of newgrass.
This progressive string quartet features Tom Andersen on bass, guitarist Zac Archuleta, Ethan Bush on mandolin, and Adams Collins on banjo. 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.
Music Mecca’s Spencer Nachman calls them a “fiery, finger-picking string band… What is apparent at any Arkansauce show is their positivity and desire to uplift the audience’s spirit, no matter the circumstance.”
They are a band inspired not only from their home state of Arkansas, but also throughout their travels. “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,” says Ethan. “Our inspiration is gathered by events unfolding in our own adventures in real time. These days, the desire to create, inspire, and redefine within our scene seems to be the main driving force behind our music. From a young age we were huge fans of live music and were introduced to a lot of great music by our families.”
With 11 original tracks—ranging from upbeat and stimulating to contemplative and encouraging—Okay to Wonder is filled with songs of revelry, wonder, insight, and whimsy.
The album was met to critical acclaim with reviews in Bluegrass Today (“a truly inspired effort”), Ameriana Highways (“this is high-octane stuff, meticulously rendered & with lots of spirit”), Americana UK (“that’s a bluegrass line-up right there – but this isn’t your grandpappy’s bluegrass”), Country Standard Time, and Blog Critics; with premieres by The Bluegrass SItuation and Glide Magazine.
Songs from the album are in three official Spotify Playlists: “Indie Bluegrass,” “Fast Grass,” and “New Grass,” and these “bluegrass shredders” were included on No Depression’s Best of April 2023 Spotify Playlist! The album has received airplay on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction and, having been been released for less than one month, OK to Wonder hit #25 on the monthly Relix/ Jambands.com Radio Chart. The album debuted in two Roots Music Report Charts the week of May 20: #32 in Pop, and #5 in Arkansas Music.
They’ve also interviewed and performed a few of the new tunes in studio in their homestate with Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Little Rock’s THV11. LISTEN to The Mandolins and Beer Podcast interview with Ethan Bush about songwriting, practicing, the studio, touring and more.
The album’s 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.
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.”
“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).
The band was founded in 2011 after Zac and Ethan, who had grown up across the street from one another in Johnson County, Arkansas, moved to Fayetteville. Tom and Adams were slowly introduced to them through the tight-knit Fayetteville music community and in 2014 Adams and Tom filled in on the fly—magic was made on the stage that night, and the lineup was forever changed.
Having played shows from California to Connecticut over the last several years in addition to two tours in Europe, the band is no stranger to the road. They supported Yonder Mountain String Band for a leg of their summer tour in 2019, played mainstage spots on festivals with bands (including but not limited to) Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, The Del McCoury Band, Billy Strings, Leftover Salmon, Tauk, The Wood Brothers, and shared the stage with the legendary Sam Bush as a guest.
Arkansauce Independently Releases 5th Album, OK to Wonder, April 21, 2023
“Fiery, finger-picking string band… What is apparent at any Arkansauce show is their positivity & desire to uplift the audience’s spirit, no matter the circumstance.” —Music Mecca
“Their take on bluegrass, which is forward-thinking yet still adhering to a traditional model, is powered by their creative and technically challenging arrangements.” — Americana UK
The melodies of the Ozark Mountains’ rolling hills and raging rivers can be heard in this progressive string quartet’s distinct blend of newgrass.