By Al Kaufman
Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle are doing everything they can to keep to blues alive. Arbuckle tears apart his harp every time he brings it to his lips. His voice is rich and just rough enough to sound like he’s lived about which he sings. He sounds like a lost Allman Brother. As for Moreland, his guitar work will blow more than a few speakers. His fuzzy guitars, recalling early ZZ Top, are strong enough to stand with Arbuckle’s vocals. On the traditional “Legend of John Henry” Moreland plays his gritty throwback to the Delta bluesmen days; a custom cigar box guitar, which has one bass string, three guitar strings, a fretless neck, and hand-wound pickups. It offers a big, beefy sound, as heavy as the steel driving hammer that John Henry swung.
“Lengend of John Henry” and the opening Little Walter cut, “Hate To See You Go,” notwithstanding, most of this CD is originals. The fact that M&R chose to put their covers at the beginning of the disc shows just how much faith they have in their own songwriting abilities. “Bound and Determined” an old violent western about a girl who done gone wrong to her man and pays the ultimate price. They add a bit of country flavor to “Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone.” “Bad Moon Rising” recalls Chris Whitley in his early, “Big Sky Country” days.
There are a lot of stories on here of people who are tired, angry, and seem ready to snap at any point. There are also some slower, spookier tunes. “Your Man Won’t Ever Know,” which is supposed to be a love song, sounds like it’s being sung by a crazed mountain man who has drugged a girl, brought her back to his cave, and is trying to woo her in his best, stalker-like way. But there’s lots of fun on here as well. Michael Moreland adds some jazzy piano to “Don’t Wake Me” a boastful brag about a man who “was up ’til half-past 7, just tryin’ to love my baby right.”
There is not a bad cut on here. This is the blues done by guys who not only love them, but know how to play them. As long as guys like Moreland and Arbuckle are around, the Delta blues will continue to survive, and, if the world were a just place, thrive.