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Moreland & Arbuckle - Flood

Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group

13 songs; 48:26 minutes; Splendid

Styles: Mississippi Hills Blues, Hard Driving Roots music

The music of cigar box guitarist Aaron Moreland, singer/harpist Dustin Arbuckle, and drummer Brad Horner can best be described as a:
A) ruckus
B) fracas
C) brouhaha
D) donnybrook
E) hurly-burly
F) all the above

Take your pick, but guaranteed: this is not “ease back on the couch and get your baby comfortable” music! This CD says get up off the divan, stomp the floor, get naked and chase your baby down the hall – let’s boogie! If you are driving your vehicle, these tunes are mile-makers (and likely speeding ticket magnets). Flood’s ten original songs and three covers are house rocking party material, scheduled for release on February 23 as their Telarc debut and fourth CD overall.

What impresses me most is the passion the players use in performing, and evoke in listeners. Like an Oscar winning actor who can emote convincingly through a character, Moreland and Arbuckle turn every song into something that seems critically important. Even on an “I don’t give a damn” day, their performances make me want to listen and have a care. An example is “Legend of John Henry,” recorded live. I have heard versions of this old classic since I was old enough to listen, but Arbuckle sings it (and plays harp) like John Henry was his blood brother.

One song truly is from the heart, track four about a “Flood” - titled “18 Counties.” Track three at 1:17 minutes sets the mood with a cacophonic mish-mash of sounds that sets hairs to standing on end. Set to the Trance / Drone Blues rhythms of the north Mississippi hills, Arbuckle sings, “Rain keeps fallin’; you watch the water rise / See it all get swept away before your eyes.” The lyrics are based on an actual flood in the southeast of their native Kansas that took Dustin’s father’s home and left other people even worse off.
The rumpus begins on track one, “Hate to See You Go,” with squealing harmonica inspired by the song’s author, Little Walter. The song is paced by Moreland’s vamping guitar and Horner’s metronome-like, relentless drumming.

Track two’s afore mentioned “John Henry” features Moreland on a Mike Snider created fretless cigar box guitar. It has one bass string wired to a separate bass amp and three treble strings, stroked with a metal finger slide, played through a guitar amp.

My favorite song, track six’s “Don’t Wake Me,” is not typical of the other cuts. It starts with a deceiving nine seconds of pleasant sounding acoustic piano before Elmore James style slash-and-burn slide guitar lights it up. Done as a Chicago Blues number, the lyrics about making love all night long and not getting to sleep until 7 o’clock in the morning are humorous to a man my age. What I used to do all night long; now, it takes me all night long to do, but these youngsters put the “root” into Roots music.

For “Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone,” Moreland brings out an acoustic resonator guitar on this Country Blues cut. Arbuckle’s harp is more ethereal, and this time the lead vocals are done in close harmony to the guitar’s notes, plus there are two and three part vocal harmonies. This song became my first earworm.

Moreland and Arbuckle have spent nearly a decade exploring the edges of American roots music. In the process, with help from drummer Brad Horner, they have forged a relentless and pulsing sound that merges Delta Blues, Folk, Rock, traditional Country, Soul and numerous other pages from the American songbook. Along the way, they performed for U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. Polished? Hell no. Contagious? Yes!

It is good to shake things up once in a while, and these cats are the bone shaking-est!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

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