Chris Maxwell has consistently stretched the boundaries of his own sound and vision as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer, starting in the late ’80s as frontman for Little Rock, Arkansas’ Gunbunnies, and then later with NYC band Skeleton Key, crafting raucous rock experimentations. More recently, Maxwell has helped create music for several commercials and TV series, including Bob’s Burgers and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and has worked alongside artists like They Might Be Giants and Fiona Apple as one-half of production duo Elegant Too. In between, he’s written and recorded two solo albums, 2016’s Arkansas Summer and 2020’s New Store No. 2, the latter a cozy mix of lush indie pop and rock. In the homespun spirit of both, the Arkansas-born artist has put together a comprehensive playlist featuring musicians who hail from his native state.
Says Maxwell of the playlist: “My own personal peep into the strange and beautiful heart of Arkansas music. Whether it’s the butter-knife slide of Cedell Davis, Pharoah Sanders’ sheets of sound, Jim Dickinson’s irreverent approach to recording, or the prepared-piano-player compositions of Conlon Nancarrow, Arkansas has always produced sounds that ignore the rules. I left off a few of the unusual suspects in favor of curveballs like The Insect Trust, whose founding member Robert Palmer not only was the first full-time rock writer for The New York Times but also grew up next door to Pharoah Sanders. I also wanted to highlight a few of the early architects of rock ’n’ roll like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Louis Jordan as well as a few familiar names like Glen Campbell and Al Green. Some entries might need a little explaining. For instance, I had somehow missed the fact that Little Rock native Al Bell, the former owner of Stax Records, was also a songwriter behind songs like Eddie Floyd’s ‘Raise Your Hand’ as well as the Staple Singers smash ‘I’ll Take You There.’ One of the gifts of growing up in a state that often flies under the cultural radar is that you can let your freak flag fly, and with that in mind I close out the list with the incomparable Elton and Betty White.”