Zack Van Arsdale - All of the Above
by Chuck Dauphin

With an impressive list of credits over the years in both stage and film, Michigan native Zack Van Arsdale has seen it all over his storied career. He has shared the stage with acts like Hank Williams, Jr., and has shared screen time alongside such giants as Burt Reynolds, so you can figure that he has taken a few tips along the way on preparing for reaching the brass ring. His latest album shows that he is up to taking that step. ALL OF THE ABOVE showcases an industry veteran who loves his style of Country Music.

He tries to include all styles on this set, ranging from the Texas roadhouse feel of “Born Too Late” and “Too Late To Go Home Early” to the Western-story song “El Rayo The Outlaw,” which has a decidedly Marty Robbins feel to it. “Country Song Backwards” will raise a few chuckles with its’ unique spin on the genre’s song lyrics, while he takes a romantic turn on “Straight Home To You,” about how a good woman can change everything for the better. The pick of this disc is the title cut, which soars with a dreamy melody and arrangement. Look for this “Song Doctor” to continue to cure hearts for quite a while to come!

January 2007

By Kelly Delaney

few months ago I was on a writers round at the Broken Spoke, which as I've mentioned before, is one of Nashville’s premier songwriter showcase forums (that translates into just about the best place on the planet to hear songwriters perform their songs).
    One of the writers on the round, Zack Van Arsdale, played a song that absolutely left me in awe — "Crazy Horse.” For starters, I particularly enjoy historically-based songs. Throw in the fact that it is about one of my personal heroes and you have the reason I was so blown away.
Of course, I instantly asked Zack for a copy of the tune once we left the stage. Hence the reason it is this issue’s featured lyric.
    Creating an historically accurate lyric is no simple task: it requires doing your homework. Once you've done that, the real creative work begins — boiling down all that information into a poignant and succinct capsulation which recounts the story in such a way that its lyrical
emotional impact, combined with melody, contains all the information that must, by time constraints, be left out.
    Volumes have been written about Crazy Horse. I know because I’ve read many of them. He was one of the most enigmatic and mystical figures in history. So, the problem becomes one of what to leave out more than what to include.
In this lyric, the writer not only captures the essence or a truly great man, but he brings us full circle to Crazy Horse’s legacy. His spirit lives on in the present-day Lakota Sioux.
    Aside from its accuracy, what I really appreciate in this lyric is its ethical and moral message. Crazy Horse saw something that was terribly wrong and was willing to die trying to right it. Isn’t that also the message of Christ?

No, I’m not equating the two; I’m simply stating that when mortal men give the sweat of their souls for the Truth, their spirits become immortal. Just because something is impossible doesn’t mean you don’t do it. Surely Crazy Horse realized that.
    The story is told in five verses and a short, emphatic chorus placed between them. The first verse serves as an introduction which leads into the chorus. It, and the last verse, have an A-A-A-A rhyme pattern. However, they are not exact rhymes thus avoiding the sing-song, moon-June-tune-croon syndrome, which can be the proverbial kiss or death to a lyric.
    In the middle three verses, the writer tells the story concisely. Really, I don’t think this lyric could be impacted any more than it is. Arguably one could choose alternate facts to install in these three verses but a lyricist must go where the spirit wills. I believe Crazy Horse himself could have written these words. The lyric is certainly emotionally-charged as evidenced by a slight digression from history to the present in the third verse.

Zack Van Arsdale
    The last verse fairly boils with rage for the wrongs that have been delivered upon our Native American brothers, and while we can’t be held accountable for the sins of our fathers, we do have a moral and spiritual obligation to see that the residuals of those wrongs are corrected. We can’t change history but we can change the future.
Ultimately, this song asks us to walk into the sun of enlightenment, not out of guilt, but out of compassion. No. Crazy Horse did not die in vain. He died for us as much as he did for his beloved Lakota people.

Kelly Delaney is a native of the "Little Montana" region of Pennsylvania. His songs have been featured in a dozen films. Presently he records for Reptile Records, an independent U.S./European label specializing in eclectic music.
18 / American Songwriter
March /April 2001