|(c) 2007 Blues-Finland.com|
|Dave Arcari - alt.blues
23 February 2007
The National guitar –playing singer-songwriter offers alternatives for those fed up with commercialism. The Scot released his take-no-prisoners solo album “Come with Me” in early February.
"When I was seven or eight I used to bash my Dad's guitar using an old penny... I once covered the guitar in tin foil to make it look like an electric guitar!
But it wasn't until I was about 19 and getting into Bob Dylan and Neil Young that I got an acoustic guitar of my own and went busking in Glasgow city centre. All I knew was the first two lines of Bowie's "Space Oddity", so I repeated them for a couple of hours until I had made enough money to spend the rest of the day in the pub..."
(c) Jimmy Herd
|That's how it all started for the National-wielding Scottish alt.blues singer and songwriter Dave Arcari, who released his first full-length CD, the 14-track "Come With Me" on February 5th, 2007. Inspired by Catfish Keith, Dave quit the one-time "Scottish Blues Band of the Year" Summerfield Blues way back in 1996 to start a solo career, but soon found himself fronting a new band, The Radiotones. His first solo EP, "Blue Country Steel" would not be recorded until 2004; by August 2005, Dave was headlining the Augustibluus festival in Estonia, selling more CDs there than any other artist since 1993 - more than Phil Guy and Pepe Ahlqvist combined.
"’Blue Country Steel’ was a toe in the water to try and gauge interest in the solo stuff, and at that time I was still focussed on the band," Dave says. "I love The Radiotones, but the guys have so many personal commitments that it's difficult for them to do many gigs, whereas I make my living from music. So since last April, I've been concentrating on solo stuff full-time - I guess a lot of the time between May 2004 and April 2006 was just spent working out how I wanted to progress things."
Future Radiotones releases are still in the cards, but chances are that those will be download-only - according to Dave, the band does not play enough live shows to sustain more CDs. Not only are concerts the easiest and most profitable way to sell CDs, sales through any outlet depend on the artist's "visibility" - and to get proper press exposure, one has to play live. In Dave's case, that means spending most of his time in the van, travelling up and down the UK. He does not hesitate to add that the live music scene there is currently quite healthy - so much so that even the smoking ban, implemented in Scotland since March 2006, has not had a negative effect. In fact, some of the smaller venues appear to be attracting more people, as non-smokers are now comfortable going out in a smoke-free environment and most smokers seem happy to go outside for a quick smoke or do without for an hour or two.
"Live audiences seem to be growing - I think some of that is the result of the download/free music available; music fans are looking for added value and that's being delivered through live performances," Dave explains. "Acoustic and roots stuff does seem to be coming through a bit more, too - many folks are looking for an alternative to chart music and the commercial stuff rammed down their throats by major record companies and radio stations driven by shareholders and advertising rather than a love of music and creativity."
Listing Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, and Catfish Keith as his biggest blues influences, Dave Arcari also admits to loving country and rock'n'roll artists like Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Hank Williams, as well as the Bloodshot Records' alt.country catalogue and the more "contemporary" stuff by The White Stripes, Seasick Steve, and Alabama 3.
Come with Me
His own album, "Come With Me", includes 14 songs - some that appeared on "Blue Country Steel", some that appeared on his 2006 EPs "VOL 1: Something old, something borrowed..." (released Sept 4, 2006) and "VOL 2: ...something new, something blue" (released Nov 6, 2006) - and yet some that fans will recognize from the CDs he recorded with the Radiotones.
|It is not, however, a mere compilation of his past work: not everything on the EPs has made it onto the album, and not everything on the album has been previously released. Two out of three songs that originally appeared on Dave's debut EP are present as alternative versions, having had two years to "mature and evolve" during live performances. And in addition to Mississippi John Hurt's "Stagolee", uncharacteristically fingerpicked on a non-resophonic acoustic guitar, "Come With Me" introduces two cover versions that weren't present on the covers EP "Something old, something borrowed": Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "Going To See The King".
|"I don't do many covers, but the two Blind Willie songs are personal favourites and they're often requested in my live set," Dave says. "The other cover, "Stagolee" - it's very unlikely I'd play it in a live set, but it's been a favourite when I've been messing around at aftershow parties and with folks after gigs, and I just kinda threw it in as a wildcard. I also had to try and justify buying the little Collings guitar that I used to record it!"
”Come with Me” is purely devil’s music - as emphasised by the album name and cover art. In a cartoon-style cover, a female devil character urges the listener to join the Dave Arcari Tour from Mississippi to Scotland – via trash country, rockabilly and punk. The many ingredients are mixed together to make a rich stew. Something like this was done last year by the Finnish artist J. Karjalainen, who on his best-selling album “Lännen Jukka” blended Mississippi blues with Finnish travelling songs.
The album bears a shameless resemblance to the auteur. Arcari plays skilfully enough but in ragged fashion; the vocal parts, again, are hardly conventional. This is where it’s at: the music forcefully and genuinely arises from the tartan inside. At times the r’s in the ends of the words appear in the true, inimitably Scottish manner.
The man and his guitar is Arcari’s line-up of choice. It has its own risks, as fourteen songs and almost an hour in practically unchanging sound scenery is way too much for many a listener. Some tracks, properly, succumb to depths somewhat aimlessly. On the other hand, catchy and fresh tunes like “Red Letter Blues” succeed in keeping the tension alive.
Wanted: Gigs and Travel
In a recent Bluesinlondon.com review of one of Dave Arcari's live shows, Stuart Turner writes: "He romps around the stage like no blues performer I've ever seen. More like Joe Strummer in 1977, but with a resonator. (…) This is a man who loves his work." Thus it's no surprise that when asked what the future holds, Dave's answer is a roaring "More gigs!"
"I'm hoping to hit Australia next year, and I really would like to come back to Estonia and maybe combine that with some gigs in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway," he adds. "I think audiences in Europe/Scandinavia could be interested in what I'm doing!"
Dave Arcari entertains British and Irish audiences with a hard-working man’s gig schedule in the spring. A two-week stint in the States are in the offing in March.
ANDRES ROOTS & PASI TUOMINEN
Links: Dave Arcari, Dave Arcari MySpace