PORTLAND — After a bit of hibernation and a chance to recharge and reconnect, the hardworking, hard-driving blues/rock duo Moreland & Arbuckle of Kansas has hit the road again.
Currently touring Canada and giving life to their latest album “Just a Dream,” released on Telarc Records, Moreland & Arbuckle will take the stage March 4 at The Big Easy as part of the club’s Sunday Evening Blues series.
Harmonica player and vocalist Dustin Arbuckle vividly remembers the last time he and his partner performed in Maine. A steady downpour and a sea of devoted blues fans at the 2010 North Atlantic Blues Festival forged a lasting bond for Arbuckle.
“It rained the entire time and I loved it,” Arbuckle said from his Kansas home earlier this week before leaving for this latest tour. “We were exhausted. We had just been on a stretch where we were in south central Pennsylvania on Friday, played in Virginia on Saturday and then had to be at Rockland by noon on Sunday. It’s all a blur, but at the same time completely unforgettable. And then the rain. There’s something about that kind of experience that creates a connection with the crowd. Like we’re all in this together.”
Moreland & Arbuckle easily connect with music lovers through the 12-track “Just a Dream.” The duo infuses country rock into Delta and Chicago blues, or the other way around, and gnarls the chords with a bite of grunge. The result is an original and raw sound that bridges generations and genres.
I reviewed the CD last August when it first came out and am still listening to “Just A Dream” with the satisfaction of knowing that rock ‘n’ roll will never die as long as artists like Arbuckle and Aaron Moreland, and now with drummer Kendall Newby, stay true to American roots while keeping it fresh.
“Hopefully as a band moves on they evolve musically,” Arbuckle said. “We took a little more meticulous approach with the recording of ‘Just A Dream’ and made sure we got the right sounds without wringing the life out of it.”
Arbuckle hesitated to limit the band’s musical influences to a finite list and noted that each of the three of them would give different answers. But he submitted a roster that included blues prerequisite Howlin’ Wolf, 1960s soul Wilson Pickett, country Johnny Cash and contemporary rock bands Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and The Black Crowes.
The track “The Brown Bomber” opens the album with Moreland driving heavy on guitar. Moreland has developed a style on his cigar box guitar that allows him to thump out the bass on the lower string. “Travel Every Mile” features soul-clawing harmonica from Arbuckle. Then there’s the upbeat “Good Love,” which typifies that uniquely blues, oxymoronic philosophy of let’s party when things go wrong.
“We have elements of a lot of different music,” Arbuckle said. “Typically, Aaron will come in with some kind of riff he’s been building with the guitar and I usually do most of the lyric writing. It’s never 100 percent that way. Nothing ever is.”
Arbuckle noted that when they included Tom Waits’ “Heartattack and Vine” on the album, their hip-shaking take on the original crawling lament happened completely unconsciously.
“If we do a cover, we don’t try to play things to the letter,” Arbuckle said. “It generally comes out different, because we’re different.”
Arbuckle said the band is working on new music, but wants to give “Just A Dream” a chance to live its life first. After The Big Easy and a return to Rockland at The Timeout Pub the night after, Moreland & Arbuckle head out to Colorado, touch base briefly close to home, then jet out for a tour in Poland and Germany. Then, they’ll make their way to perform the renowned Moulin Blues Festival in the Netherlands, where they’re obviously not in Kansas anymore, but where American roots music always reigns.
Blues/rock duo Moreland & Arbuckle of Kansas will perform March 4 at The Big Easy as part of the Portland clubÕs Sunday Evening Blues series.