Arkansas is a state many people tend to forget about, but it’s home to some pretty impressive things, like the World Cheese Dip Championship, the only active diamond mine in America, and the Ozark Mountains. It has been important throughout history, especially when it comes to the music world. Artists like Johnny Cash, Beth Ditto, and Pharoah Sanders all hail from Arkansas.
Considering names like that, it’s no surprise that some of those artists have produced some incredible tracks about the state. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 15 best songs about Arkansas, The Natural State.
1. Home – Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros
Home is a special song for me, as it deals with being so in love that you feel at home with your partner, no matter how far away from your normal home you go or where you end up. It lightly discusses Arkansas as well, including it as one of the places the pair has seemingly gone to throughout their widespread ramblings. It was recorded by Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros for their Up From Below album in 2009.
The prominent use of whistling gives the track a nostalgic feel, as do the spoken portions of the song that make you feel as at home as the singer. It was more of a hit in Australia than it was in the US, peaking at number 73 on the Australian charts. A music video was made for the track that included a selection of clips from their tour of Australia.
2. Arkansas – Chris Stapleton
The best way to describe Chris Stapleton’s Arkansas would be to call it a road trip turned into a song. He isn’t from The Natural State, but his gravelly voice does justice to it as he sings about traveling through The Ozarks and includes plenty of references to the University of Arkansas’s Razorbacks. It appeared on his fourth album Starting Over but first appeared during his live shows as early as 2019. While country to the core, it has an edge of rock and roll and blues that gives it a fun and unique sort of sound.
3. Arkansas Heat – Gossip
If you want a fiery rock song about Arkansas, look no further than Gossip’s Arkansas Heat. A banging punk track with a heavy bassline, it essentially rages against the lifestyle of small-town Arkansas and the religious traditions that are so prevalent in the state. Despite raging against them, the track does obviously include some gospel influences that are enhanced by Beth Ditto’s energetic vocal performance.
Defiance is the name of the game in this song, shifting from explosive guitar solos to intense vocal sections. It’s the perfect anthem for restlessness and frustration, and it’s also an incredible track for live performances.
4. Arkansas Lovin’ Man – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was born in the small town of Kingsland, Arkansas, and he spent almost his entire childhood within the borders of the state. Working on his family’s farm and growing up in Arkansas shaped him as a man, something that was evident throughout the majority of his singing career.
He eventually recorded Arkansas Lovin’ Man, which was more about a man from the state who loves hard than the actual state itself. But despite being about a man and not Arkansas, it served as a song that described the people he grew up around and knew within the state, giving listeners a snapshot of life in the state as he remembered it.
5. Going Back to Arkansas – Big Bill Broonzy
Like many other states in the southern region of the US, people born there seem to always end up going back or longing for their original homes. Big Bill Boozy was no exception, as he penned Going Back To Arkansas to describe exactly that feeling.
The blues song discusses longing for home and wanting to return to your roots, which in this case meant going back to the state of Arkansas. The poetic descriptions of the state’s rural areas and the people he meets on his journey home form the perfect background for this melancholic blues track.
6. Mary Queen of Arkansas – Bruce Springsteen
Mary Queen Of Arkansas first appeared on Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. It was one of the tracks he played during his audition with CBS Records, earning him his very first major record deal in 1972. The song was first recorded as part of his 12-track demo, and this version can be found on his 1998 Tracks album.
It seems as though the song describes a drag queen from Arkansas, giving it a bit of a quirky style for The Boss. But the songwriting and tune of the track were evocative of Bob Dylan, showcasing Springsteen’s earlier reliance on other artists for his sound.
7. Little Rock – Hayes Carll
Little Rock was the title track of Hayes Carll’s 2005 country album that topped the Billboard Americana chart and was the first self-released album to achieve that feat. This one takes on more of a darker tone than much of our list, dealing with things like addiction and heartbreak but still finding redemption in the end.
It’s about a man who has hit rock bottom, dealing with both alcoholism and the end of a relationship. It’s a song that can only be described as raw, vulnerable, and emotional. The haunting guitar chords behind the lyrics only enhance the emotion of the words and help the track lean on universal themes of loss and regret.
8. When Electricity Came to Arkansas – Black Oak Arkansas
Southern rock tends to be an eclectic mixture of rock, country, and blues themes. Black Oak Arkansas was one of the first to dabble in the genre, and guess where they came from? Named after their hometown of Black Oak, Arkansas, they enjoyed a brief but climactic height with the release of their eponymous album and are owed a debt for helping pave the way for the Southern rock genre.
When Electricity Came To Arkansas was one of their most popular songs during the 1970s, and it was an energetic and wicked sort of track that embodied the small-town rocker lifestyle of many within the state. It also gained some traction thanks to church leaders within Arkansas saying that when it was played backward it contained satanic messages, but those rumors were entirely unfounded.
9. Sweet Southern Comfort – Buddy Jewell
Buddy Jewell is another fairly big name to hail from Arkansas. His first two songs were major country hits, one of which was Sweet Southern Comfort. It’s a track about the South more than Arkansas, but knowing where the singer is from gives it more context.
It looks at small towns across the South and compares the way people live and think to where the singer comes from, paralleling Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and The Carolinas. It peaked at number 40 on the Hot 100 but made it to number three on the Hot Country Songs Chart in 2003.
10. Arkansas (parts 1 & 2) – Jimmy McCracklin
Jimmy McCracklin is a name many people may not know but probably should. The Arkansas-born songwriter has hundreds of song credits to his name, mainly dealing with the blues genre. His credits include his own works and chief among them is his ode to his home state.
Arkansas (Parts 1 & 2) was recorded in 1965 and describes his time growing up in rural Arkansas. It paints the state as a place full of love, joy, and good times, leaning heavily on the nostalgic memories he made during his youth. Few tracks cover the places and reasons to go to Arkansas the way this one does, celebrating the state as a place of welcome and warmth.
11. They Caught the Devil and Put Him in Jail in Eudora, Arkansas – Tony Joe White
There aren’t many songs with as interesting a premise as They Caught The Devil And Put Him In Jail In Eudora, Arkansas. It’s a blues track that deals with a man who has committed horrendous crimes and is eventually imprisoned in a jail in Eudora, Arkansas. The biggest themes of the song are guilt and remorse, with the tension and emotion held within the lyrics being palpable.
The gravity of the man’s crimes gives the track a repressive and heavy feeling, making the song a timeless classic within the blues genre. Throw in the incredible and poignant storytelling included in it, and you end up with one of the best songs about the state of Arkansas.
12. Arkansas – Glen Campbell
Arkansas was the title track of Glen Campbell’s 1975 album. He is from Delight, a city in the state, and the song is an ode to his hometown. He longs to return to it, describing it as the prettiest place he’s ever seen and all the opportunities he found while still there while mourning the fact that he ever had to leave.
Arkansas was actually nicknamed “the land of opportunity” around the same time the track was written as well. He often allowed his experiences in the state to shape his music, giving listeners insight into the way of life there while also creating some incredibly nostalgic tunes.
13. Arkansas Farmboy – Glen Campbell
Arkansas Farmboy is another great entry from Glen Campbell, but this one was written by bluegrass musician Carl Jackson specifically for him. It was based on stories Campbell told about growing up on a farm in Arkansas and first appeared on his final album Adios. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease forced him to quit recording and performing music, leaving this recollection of his memories as perhaps the only way to hear about his upbringing.
The story is likely something many people who grew up in the state during the era could relate to, helping it serve as a nostalgic snapshot of that time and giving it more popularity within the state.
14. Arkansas – Damien Jurado
Arkansas by Damien Jurado isn’t particularly about the state, though it does mention it a few times in the lyrics. He instead refers to his lover by the name “Arkansas,” as that was where he—in the song—came from, leaving behind her, his home, and his family. Unsure of what the future holds, he hopes to one day reunite with his lover in The Natural State.
After leaving, the narrator is stuck with feelings of despair and loneliness, with him trying to find his way in the world and not knowing where to turn. It’s a folk track with some great universal themes that also draw on the ever-present longing for home that many artists from Arkansas tend to include in their own works.
15. I Can See Arkansas – Anne Murray
I Can See Arkansas was recorded by Anne Murray for her 1992 album Yes I Do, and it served as the third single to come from the album. It eventually made its way to number nine on the Canadian RPM Country charts. For her, the song was a potent hit single, but it also went deeper than that.
It describes seeing Arkansas from across the Mississippi River but uses it as a metaphor for the separation between the narrator and her lover. She wants to hold onto them, but it isn’t just space that’s causing their distance. The track is about longing for someone you want to be with, using the interesting geography of Arkansas to paint a vivid picture of the challenges holding two lovers apart.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.