You’ll know him well from legendary blue-eyed soul duo Hall & Oates, but guitarist John Oates is throwing a curveball for his new solo album, entitled Arkansas. It’s a rootsy mix of country, blues and roots music – mostly acoustic – and features some famous sidekicks of its own.

The sonic glue that holds the project together is called The Good Road Band, whose impressive line-up includes legendary mandolin player Sam Bush, pedal steel innovator Russ Pahl and world-famous electric guitar picker Guthrie Trapp. It’s coming out on Feb 2 on the super-hip Americana label Thirty Tigers.

John Oates

Arkansas started out as a Mississippi John Hurt covers project – Oates played with the renowned bluesman back in the ‘60s and even borrowed his guitar for early Hall & Oates cuts – but these new recordings soon blossomed into a bigger idea. As well as Mississippi John Hurt songs, it includes new John Oates originals, the Emmett Miller classic from 1924, “Anytime,” and a cover of the Jimmie Rodgers classic “Miss the Mississippi and You.” Oates describes it as “Dixieland dipped in bluegrass and salted with Delta blues.”

He adds, “This is the album I have always wanted to make… with the band to bring it to life. After all these years I feel I've finally been able to capture the sound that's been in my head. It kind of keeps you in balance,” he says. “It kind of shows like, ‘Let’s get back to reality here. Let’s get away from the video screens and the giant, whiz-bang arena production and let’s strip it down to the essentials.’ You’re playing an instrument and you’re singing. That’s it.”

Oates will be back out touring with Hall from May to August, and but he’s revelling playing some lower-key shows of his own to support Arkansas.

“I like doing both,” Oates says of the two different tours. “If I had to do only one of them, I think I would probably get burned out, so it’s great to have this balance.”