Songwriter John Oates Travels Upriver to ‘Arkansas’

Musician John Oates recently spoke with Lois Reitzes about his new music on “City Lights,” a radio program from our partner news site WABE. Photo by Rick Scuteri/Invision/Associated Press


One might think that 50 years into a musical career, John Oates could relax, rest on his considerable success, and play the hits. But great musicians don’t rest. You of course know him and the classic music he’s made with his bandmate Darryl Hall, but his new solo album, “Arkansas,” digs even further back into America’s musical past.

Speaking with “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes, Oates says that the idea for the album came from a trip to a plantation in Wilson, Arkansas, after a moonlight walk through the cotton fields there.

“I got the feeling that this great American music tradition that emanated from the deep South, came up through the Delta,” he says, “I felt like I was in the vortex of this great musical tradition.”

Much of the album is comprised of Oates’ arrangements of blues and traditional songs from the turn of the 20th century.

“The band gave it a texture and a little bit more of a contemporary feel, but yet still true to the original, authentic spirit of the music,” he says. “I’m really bringing to bear my 50 years of recording experience. This is the sum total of where I was as a child and where I am today.”

Oates performs at Eddie’s Attic on Feb. 27 and 28.

This story originally appeared with an audio interview on

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