Moreland & Arbuckle aren’t like any other blues band. The term Roots Rock hardly encapsulates the breadth of their music. They are a power trio with a difference, comprising harp, drum and guitar, with Aaron Moreland providing the bass lines on his cigar box guitar.
It’s music built on cool dynamics and it’s the essential sum of the band’s integral parts. Moreland & Arbuckle feature Dustin Arbuckle on baritone vocal and harp (he also doubles on electric bass), Aaron Moreland on all manner of guitars, including cigar box drone and the propulsive drive of drummer Kendall Newby
They boast a locker full of wide ranging songs that fuse the past with the present in unexpected but totally compelling ways. There’s down-home blues, kick ass boogie, manic swing, tribal stomps and melodic rock which all somehow fits neatly into their contemporary roots rock label.
Dustin’s stellar harp playing is expressive, dynamic and melodic. He frequently weaves his way in and out of well crafted arrangements to extend a solo and push the dynamic to breaking point, before Kendall’s drum roll explodes the band into a crescendo led outro.
Moreland & Arbuckle play blues but not as you might expect it. They frequently fall back on the term ‘roots rock from the heartland’, but it’s music that frequently pushes traditional genres into new territories and shapes it into something that is uniquely their own. They think nothing of building up a groove before the normally laid back Moreland suddenly stalks the stage with some Wilko Johnson style swagger and an extravagant kick with his non standing leg to emphasize a riff.
Tonight they tell us, is an exploration of all their material from down the years, including songs from their current ‘7 Cities’ album. And while there’s some newly premiered material too, they open with the more familiar riff of ‘Mona’, as they ease their way into a set that builds by degrees.
Their music is stoked by the kind of sparkling interplay that mirrors their busy touring schedule, but it’s tempered by moments of misleading languor and an understated presentation style that belies their kick ass abilities.
The much requested ‘Tall Boogie’, for example, is introduced as having been being requested by 6 people on the night, rather than the jewel in the crowd which it so patently is. The crowd duly erupts as Arbuckle leads the band into the harp-led hook, while the harmony led ‘Quivera’ (also from ‘7 Cities’) is no less impressive with its mid-number drum break, Dustin’s enveloping vocal and the accapella outro.
Dustin adds lyrical harp on a country tinged instrumental and unearths an impossibly deep tone on a Muddy Waters standard. The band’s ability to switch from low-down blues to melodic rock is also brought into sharper focus as Aaron trades his cigar box drone for slide and a faux rock guitar solo on the chiming ‘The Devil & Me’.
They finish with the sledgehammer muscularity, manic harp and distorted guitar tones of ‘Legend of John Henry’ from the Flood album. The explosive finish blows away any remaining cobwebs and rocks the venue to its foundation. Job done.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Mark Hughes (MHP Studios)
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