SONG PREMIERE: Arkansas Dave Offers Bluesy Take On Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus”

Arkansas Dave learnt at an early age that there are only a few roads out of a place like Camden, Arkansas. One road heads to the prison, another to a career in the army, and the other’s a swampy dead end.

It’s a romantic cliché to find an escape in music and the blues, but living that life is a different matter. Ask Dave about growing up in a broken home, with fundamental Christianity on one side, and crippling drug-addiction on the other, and you can see in his eyes that this is no easy ride, and that at times music really was his only friend.

Escaping Arkansas as soon as he could, Dave played in bands, funding his music with a succession of jobs where he had to find his feet quickly – from busboy to assembly-worker in a trash-bag factory.

His wake up call came at the edge of a breakdown with a cataclysmic weekend epiphany. He headed home for a rare visit, and was persuaded to play a few songs to his family. The response he got from his grandfather sent his mind racing, only for him to find out the next week that his grandfather had died 24 hours later.

Determined to clean himself up, and sort his life, Arkansas Dave enrolled on an audio engineering course at Media Tech in Austin Texas, driving into town with a trailer loaded with all his possessions, ‘like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies’. And that’s where everything changed – the college was housed at that time in the famous Arlyn Studios, home to sessions from Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Ray Charles. Dave with his musical co-horts took the night shift at the studios – laying down tracks and learning the ropes.

A succession of bands followed, picking up a strong local following around Austin. The final part of his musical education saw Dave touring North America as a member of old bluesman Guitar Shorty’s band, where he learned ‘what it took to be a professional musician’

Fast forward to 2017 and Dave has establised himself as a respectable musician and songwriter with a wide ranging blues-rock sound that tells the story of his life, but resonates with all of us.

While Dave is gearing up to release his self-titled solo debut in 2018, he has a song ready to share with us now. Today Glide is premiering Dave’s bluesy take on Tom Waits’ tune “Chocolate Jesus”, one of the the standout tracks on his 1999 album Mule Variations. Recorded at Fame Studios with the Swampers and the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the vocals were completed at Arlyn Studios. Dave’s version of the song is slow and thick like the humidity of a New Orleans summer day, and though it is faithful to the original, it also showcases Dave’s soulful vocals. 

Reflecting on the decision to record the song, Dave has this to say:

“Tom Waits has always been a favorite artist of mine; and when it came time to record the album, I wanted a cover song to record. I went through several options before reaching the decision to record ‘Chocolate Jesus’ by suggestion of my wife. This song is such a direct metaphor for what it is like growing up in a Christian, conservative church culture and what it means to question the powers that be and finding solace and refuge in your own interests, beliefs and satisfactions. I can truly relate to this song, and I feel this song helps tell my story; so much, I included it on my debut album.”


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