One of the most unique voices in American music is coming to Fayetteville this weekend.
Songwriter Christopher Denny will perform at Smoke & Barrel Tavern for on Friday, March 18.
Denny, who grew up in North Little Rock, has had a whirlwind of a career. Known for his Orbison-meets-Dylan voice with its otherwordly old-time natural vibrato, he burst onto the Little Rock music scene in the early-to-mid 2000s with his unconventional delivery and undeniable talent.
He packed the house at White Water Tavern, and pretty much every other venue in Little Rock, when his legend started growing outside The Natural State.
His 2007 debut album Age Old Hunger was well received when it was released on Brooklyn label 00:02:59. He wowed at CMJ in New York in 2009 to the point that Partisan Records, (another Brooklyn-based label with an impressive roster featuring Heartless Basters, Sylvan Esso, and Deer Tick) was set to record his second full-length when he famously imploded in the studio due in large part to his struggles with alcoholism and addiction.
Not long after that, he lost his band. His father was dying. Then, things got pretty dark for a while. Denny told the Arkansas Times in 2014 that he got pretty wrapped up in heroin, was bouncing around from city to city, homeless, and on the way to becoming a rock-and-roll cliche.
He didn’t release any music for seven years.
Denny finally sobered up, though, when he and his then-girlfriend realized that wanted a better life for each other. There was also the matter of a $20,000 check on the way, a payment from Marlboro for using one of Denny’s songs, that he said he realized might have killed him.
“We would have died,” he told the Times. “We literally said to each other, ‘What are we going to do here? We can live or die. If we’re doing dope when this check gets cashed, we’re going to die.’
“So we decided to get cleaned up.”
In 2014, finally sober, he released one of the finest records ever recorded by an Arkansan. The album, titled If the Roses Don’t Kill Us was released on Partisan, and ended up on Garden & Gun’s list of the best albums from that year.
He’s now living in Austin, and is playing with a new band. The show at Smoke & Barrel is his first performance in Fayetteville since he played that same venue in 2009.
Admission is $5 at the door, and locals The Good Fear (featuring Flyer co-founders Todd Gill and Dustin Bartholomew) will open the show.