MORELAND AND ARBUCKLE
TELARC INTERNATIONAL 34329-02
QUIVIRA–KOWTOW–THE DEVIL AND ME–TALL BOOGIE–BROKEN SUNSHINE–RED BRICKS–STRANGER THAN MOST–ROAD BLIND–BITE YOUR TONGUE–EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD–WASTE AWAY–TIME AIN’T LONG–MODERN BOY
Legend has it that Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado searched for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold in what is now Kansas, the home state of blues duo Moreland and Arbuckle. Altho the riches were never found, Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle have taken this historical thread and made it the common theme throughout their latest album for Telarc, “7 Cities.” There are eight band originals among the thirteen cuts, and all follow the duo’s vision of using the blues as the foundation for their sound, and also incorporate elements of classic rock, Americana, and roots music within their scope.
If you are familiar with their earlier works, there is a decidedly rawer, edgier sound to “7 Cities.” They normally produce their own records, but this go-round they were teamed with Seattle-based Matt Bayles, and several cuts do have that grunge-y, crunchy-guitar sound to propel things. Add to that a newcomer on drums, Kendall Newby, who not only keeps a strong beat, but also adds harmony vocals and contributed to the song arrangements.
The tone is set in the opening cut, “Quivira.” Aaron’s strong riffs over Dustin’s harp and vocals punctuate the tale of Coronado’s quest for “gold growin’ on the trees,” and his eventual downfall after no riches could be found. “The Devil And Me” has a roots-rock vibe, with some mighty tasty guitar over the story of a man who “keeps bad company” with “no redemption for my wrong.” Josephine Howell brings the high-end harmony vocals to this one, too. “Kowtow” and “Stranger Than Most” go in a blues-rock direction, while “Tall Boogie” and “Road Blind” take John Lee Hooker’s “endless boogie” to a higher plane, with the fellows playing at a frenetic, hellhound-on-my-trail pace. They also do a sweet cover of Tears For Fears’ Eighties’ hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,’ as another nod to Coronado’s quest for power.
We had two favorites, too. “Red Bricks” is a Delta-inspired instrumental that has Aaron layin’ down some great National steel work, over Dustin’s Phil-Wigging-ish country-blues harp. And, a man who’s facing his own mortality is the (anti-) hero of “Time Ain’t Long,” done in by a life of excesses and drowning “in a flood of my creation.” Aaron’s acoustic guitar is stellar, as is Dustin’s world-weary vocals.
Coronado may not have found the mythical “7 Cities,” but Moreland and Arbuckle have found a wealth untold within the grooves of this powerful set. They get better with each new project, and continue to grow their unique sound while remaining firmly rooted within the blues. Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow