SATURDAY 11/23. CALS Ron Robinson Theater. $25-$75.
A lauded Arkansas songwriter and Morrilton native, Chris Maxwell is making a homecoming to celebrate a new album release and to honor a fallen bandmate. How influential is Maxwell to the Central Arkansas music scene? Billboard magazine, in a 1994 cover story, lauded Maxwell’s band Jubilee Dive for providing “the fuel and sense of purpose for many in the local music community,” and a Jubilee Dive side project became the beloved Gunbunnies, which signed to Virgin Records and released “Paw Paw Patch” in 1990, produced by Little Rock native Jim Dickinson. But the Maxwell songs you are likeliest to hear have been sung in cartoons. As part of the duo Elegant Too with Phil Hernandez, Maxwell found writing music for TV and movies a more consistent revenue stream than rock ’n’ roll. His primary muse these days is the Belcher family of TV’s “Bob’s Burgers.” “It’s such a privilege to make a living making music,” Maxwell said.
The “day job” of “Bob’s Burgers” has allowed Maxwell — who relocated from Little Rock to New York in 1994 and then to Woodstock, N.Y., in 2000 — to resume his original musical practice of recording and singing his own songs. “Arkansas Summer” was released in 2016 on Little Rock’s Max Recordings. Its follow-up, “New Store No. 2,” featuring guests like Cindy Cashdollar and Amy Helm, is coming out in early 2020. While this event serves as both a release party for “New Store No. 2,” and a homecoming, this show goes even deeper for Maxwell: The evening is a fundraiser for the Joe Cripps Foundation, which supports percussion lessons and more and is named for the Grammy-winning Little Rock percussionist who disappeared three years ago this October. To participate, Maxwell said, “was a given.” He and Cripps attended McClellan High and UA Little Rock together, and performed music together for years.
“It’s difficult to talk about someone who disappears,” Maxwell said of Cripps. “It’s difficult to grieve. But the foundation is a great idea to honor Joe and help kids out.” The $25 general admission tickets to the show include a digital download key of “New Store No. 2”; the $75 premium ticket includes the download plus a signed vinyl copy of the album. With special guests Ambrosia Parsley, Brent Best (of Slobberbone fame) and former members of the Patios and Gunbunnies, this show will cover a lot of ground, with the common thread being Maxwell’s invitingly clever songs.