While there's practically an infinite number of ways a band can generate great word of mouth for themselves in this age of social networking, digital distribution and the star-making blogosphere, it seems as though good, old-fashioned touring is as reliable a generator as any.
Springfield, Missouri's Ha Ha Tonka certainly understands this notion, hitting the road in their van on a seemingly constant basis. Not every young act can step out of their Williamsburg walk-up donning a few ironic cardigans and have magazine covers and festival headlining gigs thrown their way, y'know?
Still, the blogs have taken notice of the folk-meets-indie-meets-rock group: Their latest album, Death of a Decade, has seen the band justifiably gathering all sorts of raves. That was also the case for the four-piece's previous couple of albums, too. Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South from 2009 and 2007's Buckle in the Bible Belt gave the guys something to sell as they made their way from small run-down bars to the stages of some of the larger festivals in the country.
The band will be stopping by to perform in Dallas on Saturday, September 17, for a gig at La Grange, the night after they play the ACL Festival.
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At first, we wanted to know which bands Ha Ha Tonka had enjoyed touring with most. But given that Ha Ha Tonka has played countless shows all over the country, with countless acts supporting them, lead singer Brian Roberts had other ideas. After telling us that he's an "Ozarker through and through" and that he feels the Ozark's are often overlooked as a region full of musical genius, he told us he'd rather give us his "All-Time Top Five Ozark-based Artists."
We gladly let him.
Brian Roberts of Ha Ha Tonka's All-Time Top Five Ozark-based Artists
1. Big Smith. Hands down, the best band to ever come out of the Ozarks. They represent all that's good about the area and Mark Biyleu has helped us so much over the years that we are forever indebted to them. Infectious melodies, pitch-perfect harmonies and some of the best lyrics inside and outside of Christian County .
2. Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin. Yes, these guys may be some of our best friends in rock 'n' roll, and we may have started our bands together in Springfield, but they also happen to be some of the best songwriters I've ever met. Each album has seen them grow into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. We've toured a bunch with them and they put on an amazing live show. Plus, "Modern Mystery" may be my favorite song of all time.
3. Ozark Mountain Daredevils. "Jackie Blue." Need I say more?
4. Porter Wagoner. Three of us grew up in the same hometown as Porter Wagoner: West Plains, Missouri. The main cruising strip in town is actually called Porter Wagoner Boulevard. He was a pioneer in several ways in the music industry, both in translating his act to television and discovering new talent (i.e. Dolly Parton). I'm just not sure what caught his eye about Dolly first.
5. Dr. Smith's Champion Hoss Hair Pullers. [Drummer] Lennon [Bone]'s grandpa played in this group. They had to hang it up during the Great Depression, but apparently they were something to behold. Yes, nepotism still runs deep in the Ozarks.