Arkansas is a musical state. This state has had far more than its share of music legends and pioneers in a vast variety of genres. If you look closely, you will start to notice certain towns in Arkansas have become associated with specific types of music. Newport and Northeast Arkansas may well be the epicenter of rockabilly music. Mountain View has been proclaimed the “Folk Music Capitol of the World.” And Helena has its strong connections to the heyday of blues music. Although the town certainly has its own notable history, Fort Smith rarely, if ever, seems to be mentioned when discussing music in Arkansas.

Well, don’t tell River Valley native and singer/songwriter Luke Pruitt any of that.

His newest project – Songs of Home Pt. 2: A Novella Album – is Fort Smith music. It’s slated for release later this year. Even though some of the tracks are from Pruitt’s perspective, don’t start thinking that this album is just a sentimental autobiographical self indulgence. It is far from that. Fort Smith has always been a city of immigrants, whether it’s former Europeans embarking on travels towards the old west, the Vietnamese refugees of the mid 1970s, or the current influx of Latino workers. Pruitt is not only aware of this but shows a great deal of empathy telling the stories of those struggling to make Fort Smith their new home. Storytelling is one of Pruitt’s strong suits.

“Well, it is about the concept of “home”, first of all, which is a broad and abstract theme to say the least,” said Pruitt. “So to be more specific, it is about seeking our place in the world, finding solace in times of struggle, and ultimately finding peace and joy, especially through the family structure and our kinship with others.”

Many of the musical influences that he credits are cerebral singer songwriters of the 1970s, the likes of Paul Simon, Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell, all great storytellers. That influence shows, not only in the storytelling but also in the music accompanying the stories. For instance: a Paul Simon groove is evident in the song “My First Job” and “Coyotaje” has a very Joni Mitchell-esque refrain. That jaunty Randy Newman feel is apparent in “Two Kinds of People.” He also cites literature as having a strong influence on his songwriting.

“From a lyrical standpoint, though, I feel like literature had as much influence as any songwriters, specifically short stories,” he said. “I was reading a lot of Hemingway shorts and a lot of Raymond Carver.”

The production and musicianship heard on the album also seem very reminiscent of that seminal era in American music. The sweet sounds of a harmonica can be heard towards the ending of “Because of You” and put you in the mind of those great 1970s Stevie Wonder recordings.

It would be hasty to say that Luke Pruitt has defined the Fort Smith sound. but if you pay close attention and listen hard, you can’t help but see how the city has helped define his sound.