Although Lynyrd Skynyrd
and the Allman Brothers Band
remain better known today, Black Oak Arkansas
was once an important group in the Southern rock scene. This generous compilation provides a solid thumbnail sketch of the group's career, including all their hits and radio favorites plus a generous assortment of album tracks. Black Oak Arkansas
were often criticized by the music press for their cartoonish hillbilly image (especially frontman Jim "Dandy" Mangrum
's strangled vocal style), but Hot & Nasty: The Best of Black Oak Arkansas
reveals that the group's tunes hold up pretty well: their big hit "Jim Dandy" remains a tub-thumping slice of country-rock, and "Keep the Faith" mines similar territory to an equally listenable effect. The group also shows off a surprising funkiness on tracks like "Mutants of the Monster," presented here in a smoking, wah-wah guitar-drenched live version, and "Hot and Nasty," which has a hard-grooving drum beat that's begging to be sampled by a hip-hop group. Other tracks show off the group's chops on country sounds: "When Electricity Came to Arkansas" starts off with a convincing, old-fashioned hoedown (complete with washboard) before moving into its hard rock portion and "Everybody Wants to See Heaven (Nobody Wants to Die)" is a solid slice of country philosophy driven home by an effective bluegrass-style acoustic arrangement. The listener's tolerance for this music will most likely depend on what they think of Jim "Dandy" Mangrum
's vocals, but anyone who enjoys the heavier side of country-rock will most likely find something to enjoy on this entertaining, one-of-a-kind disc.