03 OCT 11 DAVID SHANNON
Telarc recording artists Moreland & Arbuckle have just released their second album for the label, Just A Dream, and straight away one senses that the recording represents a bounding leap forward on their path of visceral, stomping, Delta blues-inspired rock. As the band notes, the release adds a dimension to the sound on 2010's Flood, thanks mostly to extra time spent in the studio and a strict quality control ethic.
Opening track "The Brown Bomber" begins with a soulful, revving, a cappella lament courtesy of singer/harpist Dustin Arbuckle, which then takes a trip through the garage of rock courtesy of Aaron Moreland's fuzzy guitar and Brad Horner's foundational drumming. Songs like this one -- as well as the title track, which takes a page from older Black Crowes but somehow sounds more authentic -- feel so full you'll swear the band isn't a three-piece. Much of this is due to Moreland, who uses a cigar-box guitar (featuring three guitar strings and one bass string) on two tracks, coupled with Arbuckle's fiery harp playing.
Yet when the group does break a song down into its basic elements, like they do on tracks like "Purgatory" and their cover of Tom Waits' "Heart Attack & Vine," among others, the pulse is that of a pure power trio. And power is at a premium for Moreland & Arbuckle, even on slower burners such as "Troll" and "Shadow Never Changes," which resonate with rumbling energy.
The album is bookended by a Steve Cropper (of Stax house band fame) contribution, "White Lightnin,'" a stone roadhouse gem if there ever was one that features Cropper himself on a blistering guitar solo. Listeners will hear traces of Cropper's soul on Just A Dream, as well as some more esoteric influences such as Pink Floyd and early ZZ Top, indicating a willingness to explore that serves the band well here.