3.5 out of 5 Stars!
Formed in 1969, Black Oak Arkansas was a down ‘n’ dirty Southern Rock group from (yes, you guessed it) Black Oak, Arkansas, that enjoyed some marginal success in the first half of the ’70s, due in large part to the wild stage presence of the group’s wacky-sounding lead singer Jim Dandy Mangrum wielding his equally wacky washboard. Indeed, Mangrum was the “David Lee Roth” of rock ‘n’ roll before the actual David Lee Roth showed up years later to mimic him, and in those early days of the band’s career, Black Oak Arkansas quickly gained a reputation for putting on one hell of a live show. The band’s triple-six-string assault, along with its countrified Blues Rock repertoire, seemed almost a precursor to the future appearance of Southern stalwarts Lynyrd Skynyrd, only with a crazy form of gusto, thanks to Mangrum’s odd twang-riddled crooning and rollicking stage antics.
Although I find many of the band’s albums occasionally spotty regarding songwriting and overall production quality, High on the Hog, the group’s fourth studio release, seems to me one of its most successful efforts. Best known for the rousing single “Jim Dandy,” a boogie-rock ditty that garnered major radio airplay across America, High on the Hog also included fun tracks such as “Movin’,” “Why Shouldn’t I Smile,” “Red Hot Lovin’,” “Swimmin’ in Quicksand,” and “Mad Man,” which offered raw and rampaging frolic flavored with either back-country slide and steel guitars or hillbilly banjos. The album also included a spirited triple-guitar-featured instrumental named “Moonshine Sonata,” acoustic swampland singalongs in the form of “Back to the Land” and “High ‘n’ Dry,” along with some good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll sleeze courtesy of “Happy Hooker.” Overall, I felt this a fairly consistent and catchy collection of tunes, which favorably mirrored the band’s stage shows when it came to offering diverse and energetic material.
Granted, I was never a die-hard fan of the group due to Mangrum’s vocal quirks, which I could tolerate in only marginal doses—depending, of course, on the amount of hooch I’d consumed. Nevertheless, I still periodically revisit some of Black Oak Arkansas’s early albums, including High on the Hog, and typically enjoy the spirited guitar interplay and especially loving the presence of future “superstar” drummer Tommy Aldridge, who’s solidly thumping away on just about every track.
Go, Jim Dandy, go…