Jim Arkus spent twenty years waging wars of attrition on the twin battlefields of the blues and folk music scenes. However, a chance encounter with the writings of Robert E. Howard changed his perspective and his approach to songwriting.
What followed was the EP, "No Paths Are Straight and My Sword Is Useless" in August of this year. The five songs on the release tell tales of high adventure, both within Robert E Howard’s world and beyond. “I Didn't Mind Waiting” is Jim’s take on the character of Solomon Kane. Set against an accompaniment of deftly fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Jim sings of the relentless pursuit of evil from rural France to the deepest jungles of Africa. The song is the culmination of the opening lines of Solomon Kane’s debut story, “Red Shadows,” when the title character says simply, “Men shall die for this.”
Lyrically, Jim uses sword & sorcery and fantasy as a stepping stone to explore deeper topics and character studies. “Landlocked” takes the point of view of an aging pirate reflecting back on his life. “River Zarkheba” is set in the Conan tale “Queen of the Black Coast” and presents the barbarian, outnumbered and alone. “The Phoenix on the Sword” sings about mutiny, betrayal, and black magic, asking questions about a barbarian’s role in civilized society and what it means to rule. The song then builds to a crescendo that loudly proclaims the answers. Finally, moving to the present day, “Gray Boots and a Gray Guitar” hearkens back to Jim’s blues roots to close the album on an unapologetically somber note.
Inspired by the Halloween season, as well as a trip through the Pine Barrens, Jim released the single "Jersey Devil" on 10/1, a Lovecraftian original horror story an ill-fated encounter with the New Jersey legend. Musically, the song draws inspiration from the folk blues of the past, the high lonesome sound of Appalachian murder ballads, and even the power and fury of epic and doom metal.
If you crave fantasy and high adventure, but perhaps in a more introspective setting than the heavy metal where it’s most typically found, you can listen here: