The Acoustic Refugees take shelter at Kelts Pub

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 389 views 

You may know Altus for its beautiful vineyards and wine, or maybe for its beautifully restored St. Mary’s Church, or perhaps even for its rich coal mining heritage. But if you don’t know it for Kelts Pub, then you are missing out on an entirely unique institution.

Dan McMillen and his wife Jan Graham-McMillen opened Kelts Pub January 6, 1995 after doing a stint in the craziness of suburban sprawl in Seattle.

“It is an authentic Irish Pub,” said Dan McMillen.

What that means in practical terms is that when you walk in you will feel like you are walking into your own home. The comfortable atmosphere elicits a pace of life and friendly visiting seldom found at chain restaurants these days. Frankly, you should not go to Kelts if you are looking for fast food, or even slow food. But if you are looking for a living room atmosphere that serves great beer and food and often has outstanding live music, then you should consider a trip to Kelts.

This tiny treasure of Arkansas has matured simultaneously with the Acoustic Refugees who formed in 1994. For the past 17 years the Refugees have played at Kelts at least once a month.

This local band hails from the Franklin and Johnson County region. The centrifuge of the Acoustic Refugees is Richard “Doc” McDougal and Rosanna Taylor. Doc is an ophthalmologist by day and lead guitar player extraordinaire by night.

“We have the longest running gig in Arkansas” says Doc.  “Aside from Oreo Blue and the Cate Brothers we may be the third longest running band in the state.”

This unsuspecting eye doctor relentlessly attacks his acoustic guitar producing series of ecstatic riffs one after the next.

“It puts me into a different universe. I feel young and transfigured. It’s akin to an out of body experience,” Doc said of playing music.

Rosanna Taylor retired this May after teaching Math at Clarksville Middle School for the past 28 years.

“Now I’m going to sleep in ‘till 8:00 a.m. and focus on music,” she said.

Rosanna’s favorite tunes that they cover come from the 1930’s and 40’s. They give Paul Andrews much of the credit for this.

“Andrews played fiddle for the Skyliners in Hot Springs, Arkansas, back in the day.”

After retiring, Andrews moved to Ozone where he took Doc and Rosanna under his wing and taught them a repertoire of more than 400 old songs which they catalogued and from which they still draw.

Doc and Rosanna produce a sound full of percussive rhythms and dynamic solos. The complement of the band is filled out by Gus Brague on guitar and vocals, Dale Jensen on harmonica, and Leah Stane on vocals. On July 2 they will be joined at Kelts by Alex Lewis from Fayetteville’s Alex Lewis Trio.

This band is characterized not only by the energy it brings to its performances but by its breadth and depth of musical coverage. They travel from “Ghost of a Chance,” “The Nearness of You” and “You Go to My Head” to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to Lady Antebellum and to Lady Gaga.

The crowd Monday night was treated to rarified versions of “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hotel California,” “Body and Soul,” “I put a Spell on you,” “At Last,” “Creep,” and they closed with a soul quenching finger splitting version of “House of the Rising Sun.”

Kelts Pub is indeed a refuge for the Acoustic Refugees and for all those seeking some sanity and solace from the hectic pace of modern living. As Doc says “This is the most fun I have in life. It’s why I moved to Clarksville, to play music with these folks.”

And, it’s exactly why you should check out this unique venue and this well seasoned band.