2022/2023 Season

Rory Block
Thursday, October 13 


Heralded by the Blues Revue as one of the greatest living acoustic blues artists, Rory Block has committed her life and career to preserving the Delta blues tradition and bringing it to life for 21st century audiences around the world. A traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, she wields a fiery and haunting guitar and vocal style that redefines the boundaries of acoustic blues and folk.

Aurora “Rory” Block grew up in a Manhattan family with Bohemian leanings. Her father owned a Greenwich Village sandal shop, where musicians like Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian made occasional appearances. The rich and diverse Village scene was a constant influence on her cultural sensibilities. She was playing guitar by age ten, and by her early teens she was sitting in on the Sunday jam sessions in Washington Square Park.

In the 1990s, Block scored numerous awards and her visibility overseas increased dramatically when Best Blues and Originals, fueled by the single “Lovin’ Whiskey,” went gold in parts of Europe. She brought home Blues Music Awards four years in a row – two for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. In 1997, she won the Blues Music Award for The Lady and Mr. Johnson, a tribute to Robert Johnson, taking home Acoustic Album of the Year.

Today, after more than twenty highly acclaimed releases and five Blues Music Awards, Block is at the absolute height of her creative powers, bringing a world full of life lessons to bear on what she calls “a total celebration of my beloved instrument and best friend, the guitar.” Her newest project, titled “The Mentor Series,” is a growing collection of tribute albums to the blues masters she knew in person.








Darin and Brooke Aldridge
Friday, November 11


Darin and Brooke Aldridge are excited. And why not? With two new band members, a new record label, and five original songs on their latest album, the bluegrass and Americana duo are back with This Life We’re Livin,’ their ninth recorded project together, and a celebration of the space the husband-and-wife team now occupy – at the top of bluegrass music.

Brooke is a four-time consecutive winner for Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and nominated for a fifth time in 2021. Once a six-year member of The Country Gentlemen with the late Charlie Waller, Darin is a former IBMA Mentor of the Year and a truly gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist. Darin and Brooke were recognized with the IBMA’s nomination for 2021 Vocal Group of the Year. They have had multiple nominations over the years from the IBMA, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), and the Inspirational Country Music Association. They have enjoyed top spots on the Billboard, SiriusXM, Bluegrass Today, Bluegrass Unlimited, Americana/Roots, and Gospel charts. Their music videos have been featured on Country Music Television (CMT), CMT Edge, Great American Country (GAC), Bluegrass Ridge TV, and The Bluegrass Situation. They have a multitude of TV appearances, and they have graced the Grand Ole Opry stage more than thirty-five times.

In 2016 they joined forces with John Cowan, who plays bass for The Doobie Brothers, and a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame as co-founder of New Grass Revival. The collaboration has led to performance opportunities with artists ranging from Keb Mo’ to Country Music Hall of Famers Vince Gill and Jimmy Fortune (The Statler Brothers). Oak Ridge Boys singer Duane Allen notes, “The first time I saw Darin and Brooke, as I watched and listened, one word came to mind, ‘PURE.’ I loved recording with them. Their music is honest!!!” Joe Bonsall, the tenor singer for the Oaks, chimed in. “The Oak Ridge Boys love Darin and Brooke and considered it a huge honor to actually record a song with them … they represent class and amazing musicianship and vocal talent … Brooke is one of the premier pure voices in all of music, and quite frankly I just love them both.”






The Cate Brothers
Thursday, December 8 


More than 50 years into their career, Earl and Ernie Cate are still hitting the high notes!  Although semi-retired in 2010 after 40 years on the road, the brothers still perform three or four shows per year, and AACLive! is super fortunate to be one of those chosen venues. You may remember the last time they appeared on our stage in 2015. What a show!

The Cate Brothers started performing together in the early 1960s, inspired by friends including Ronnie Hawkins and Levon Helm. Initially performing as The Del-Rays, they later called themselves The Cates Gang when they recorded their first album in 1970. The Cates’ music was always hard to classify. It was part soul, a little country, and prominently influenced by the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. They began performing under the moniker The Cate Brothers around the same time they signed to Elektra/Asylum Records. The Cate Brothers eponymous record was released in 1975 and contained the band’s biggest hit, “Union Man.” By then, the brothers had already been performing together for about 15 years, touring with The Band, Queen, and others.

Despite traveling the globe, the twin brothers always called Northwest Arkansas home. Ernie has quieted some in the decade, while Earl still likes to play his weathered ’57 Fender to sold-out crowds with acts such as Earl & Them which also often features David Renko, son of AACLive! co-founder Dick Renko, on sax.

Join us as we welcome the band that has been aptly dubbed “Arkansas Legends of Rock & Soul.”








Sad Daddy
Thursday, January 5


Formed in 2010, Arkansas outfit Sad Daddy has traveled down many a road – both together and separately – at times focusing on solo projects – and then reuniting for a band project.

Each of its members sing lead and write original tunes, and the sound is truly a mix of American Roots music. From early blues, jazz and jug bands to country, folk, and bluegrass, to soul and funk, they combine many influences to create an indefinable genre they like to call Sad Daddy. Joe Sundell, on banjo and harmonica, developed a unique banjo picking style from studying Mississippi John Hurt’s finger picking. On jug-band style tunes, Joe brings his unmistakable ragtime jazz feel. Brain Martin on guitar, kazoo, mouth horns, and harmonica also emulates Mississippi John Hurt’s style on guitar and seems to be in a league of his own with his masterful kazoo and mouth horn. His gravelly vocal tone is reminiscent of a Leon Redbone or Tom Waits. Melissa Carper, with her booming upright bass, makes sure the whole room is on the right groove. Carper has been called by Saving Country Music ‘one of this generation’s greatest singers and songwriters’ and her voice has been likened to a ‘Hill-Billy Holiday’ by her peers. Rebecca Patek gets rowdy on fiddle, sliding between all the styles with her effortless delivery and down home and funky rhythms. Her distinctive voice adds yet another unique piece to the Sad Daddy pie.

The four members conspired and united in the sudden spare time of 2020 to create their third album, Way Up in the Hills. Convening at Brian’s cabin in Greers Ferry to write and record the album together, the collective decided on a down-home, back-to-the-country theme – a reflection on the state of the world and the desire to go back to simpler ways and self-sufficiency – goin’ way up in the hills and letting the chaos settle. Recording engineer Jordan Trotter brought his equipment into the cabin and the band recorded the 14 original tunes live and in a circle. Half of the tracks were only a week old, and the other half had become Sad Daddy standards since the band’s last album. The feeling of being in a lakeside “home” studio in the serene Arkansas woods was distilled into sound as Sad Daddy explored the use of porch stomps, ham boning, the sounds of insects buzzing, and bacon sizzling, to fashion a picking-on-the-porch vibe into the fun and refreshing creation of Way Up in the Hills.






Matt Schofield
Thursday, February 16


Matt Schofield is a soulful electric guitarist and singer.  His trio, featuring drums and organ, have branded their own unique version of funk, jazz, and blues.  Originally from the United Kingdom, he is recognized as one of the most distinctive and innovative British blues guitarists.  Schofield was rated in the top ten British blues guitarists of all time by Guitar & Bass Magazine alongside such icons as Eric Clapton and Peter Green and was named “Guitarist of the Year” three times by the British Blues Awards.  He was also inducted into the British Blues Awards Hall of Fame.  He has shared the stage with everyone from Robben Ford to Buddy Guy and released nine albums since his debut album in 2004, notching top 10 spots on the Billboard Blues Charts.

Schofield’s fluid and melodic playing and iconic tone has inspired legions of guitarists, and a sought-after line of signature instruments and equipment including a Two-Rock Matt Schofield amplifier.

Ever impressive is Schofield live. From main stages at prestigious festivals such as Montreal and North Sea Jazz, to packed houses in legendary clubs like New York’s Iridium or London’s 100 Club, his ability to connect with audiences immediately and profoundly is unforgettable. His authenticity, mastery of guitar, emotive vocals, and improvisational brilliance are brought to life within innovative original compositions.

A renowned musical educator, in 2018 Matt released “Blues Speak”, his highly acclaimed TrueFire instructional series. As a clinician he has taught from Tokyo to Texas and all points in between.  He is set to release a new album in 2023.

“In Schofield, the UK has produced the best blues guitarist from any country in decades.”

-LA Daily News








JD Clayton
Thursday, March23


JD Clayton is the epitome of a Real Deal.  Fort Smith’s own rising star proffers no glitz and no pretension. Clayton is simply a guy who has things to say and does so clearly and without clutter–but with an earnest and tuneful sensibility that makes listening to his songs as easy as sitting in the cool breeze on your front porch. Clayton’s songs have a directness and clarity that are the hallmarks of a genuine craftsman, someone who’s studied and practiced and chased different paths to end up where he is now. And it’s not without grand ambition. He’s striving to be one of the greats, and he fully understands the diligence and dedication it will take to get there.

Clayton credits his father and grandfather with indoctrinating him into his musical journey. His father worked in real estate here in Fort Smith before becoming a pastor about the time JD was starting high school. The church provided a powerful training ground for Clayton’s music. With multi-instrumental skills, including drums and piano, he was a natural to become a musical leader, playing and eventually singing during services. At UAFS, he and a fellow dorm mate began writing songs together in a band called Small Town Symphony.

“During my sophomore year I realized that nothing was going to happen until I started to record music correctly,” he says. He was fortunate to have a friend in Nashville in the music business and so he would leave Fort Smith in the wee hours each Friday, get to Nashville early afternoon, “record demos” and then come back home on Monday morning. He learned a lot. After graduation, Clayton met producer Thomas Dulin, whom he’d followed on Instagram, and in 2018 the two collaborated on his debut EP, Smoke Out the Fire.  “It was a pivotal moment for me,” he says, “because I finally had music I wrote and recorded, from start to finish.” Clayton and his girlfriend (now wife) Claire relocated to Music City in order to capitalize on his upward trajectory, and then COVID.

Although the music business was hurting, Clayton used the time to develop an ear for other styles. While doing physical labor for a large landscaping company, he had the chance to deep dive into old albums from bands including The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. “I was so enamored by the production choices and musicality of those records. I began to develop an ear for that sound.”

When he’d arrived in Nashville, he’d been urged to change his style; more Nashville Broadway strip and less Arkansas river. But it never felt authentic. “Arkansas is the natural state, and I wanted to make music that felt natural and organic,” he explains. “Production needs to be basic and simplistic with a focus on the story and the song.”

Today Clayton has been successful taking his intimate and impactful songs to audiences all over the country. “This has already been such a journey,” Clayton reflects. “I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend.”







The Iguanas – POSTPONED

Regrettably, one of the Iguanas band members was unable to postpone an impending hand surgery, so the show scheduled for March 30 will be rescheduled this fall.








Surprise Event
April, 2023


Join us for a very special event for season ticket holders on a Thursday night in April, 2023.  The exact details are still in the works, but one thing is for sure — it will be an event to remember and one that you certainly won’t want to miss.  So get your season tickets now!