Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Raw, dirty, primal and infectious... sizzling guitar, sturdy vocals and rude harmonica" - USA Today
"Deeply satisfying...gritty soul and blues with garage overtones and fire-and-brimstone vocals" - Living Blues
Guitarist Aaron Moreland - co-founder of the groundbreaking Kansas-based trio Moreland & Arbuckle - describes their music as "gritty blues and roots rock from the heartland." Moreland, along with harmonicist/vocalist Dustin Arbuckle and drummer Kendall Newby, electrify raw Delta and Mississippi Hill Country blues, folk, and traditional country with unrelenting punk rock energy washed in hard-hitting Southern soul. Their songs are expertly executed with musical muscle and fifth-gear urgency. When they perform more traditional blues, they play with the same decisive command. With each of their six previous releases, the band has grown musically and lyrically, creating a signature sound while earning a large and loyal worldwide fan base. Their legendary raw and raucous live shows are played with wild abandon. The New York Post says Moreland & Arbuckle have "a raw juke joint exuberance with a dirt-under-the fingernails garage band attack." The group's evolution continues with their Alligator Records debut Promised Land Or Bust, produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Botch, The Sword). From the howling cosmic opener Take Me With You (When You Go) to the stomping Mean And Evil to the plaintive Mount Comfort, Promised Land Or Bust is a far-reaching musical showcase. The instantly-memorable, slice-of-life songs paint scenes of double-crossed lovers, women meaner than the devil, and isolated loners beaten down by careless love. According to Moreland, "The new album is consciously traditional but still has the signature drive and power that we have crafted over the past thirteen years." Moreland says signing with Alligator is a perfect fit. "One of our biggest influences ever, Hound Dog Taylor, was the very first Alligator artist. One of the reasons we have the non-traditional lineup of no bass player was inspired by listening to Hound Dog's music as we were coming up." According to Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, bringing Moreland & Arbuckle to the label known for its Genuine Houserockin' Music was an easy choice. "I've watched this band grow from talented interpreters of raw, traditional blues into creators of fresh, original roots-based songs. Live, the energy just pours out of them."
From their 2005 self-release Caney Valley Blues to 2013's 7 Cities on Telarc, Moreland & Arbuckle have grown from a fiery, crowd-pleasing duo to a genre-smashing three-piece band. Together, Moreland's simultaneous bass, rhythm and lead guitar work and Arbuckle's emotionally-charged harmonica and edgy vocals - driven by Newby's propulsive drumming - create a sound that is forceful enough to grab a listener's attention and nuanced enough to hold it. Now, with Promised Land Or Bust, Moreland & Arbuckle are ready to bust it all wide open. Arbuckle calls the new album "our best yet," and says, "we continue to evolve musically outside of the box we started in, but the bedrock - the blues - is always there." Moreland adds, "We consciously went back to where we started and it took us to a brand new place." That new place is clearly part of Moreland & Arbuckle's never ending musical journey. And for them and their ever-growing fan base, there's no turning back now.
Personnel: Dustin Arbuckle (vocals, harmonica); Aaron Moreland (guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Kendall Newby (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Matt Bayles.
Liner Note Author: David McGhee .
Recording information: Arc Studios, Omaha, Nebraska.
Photographer: Gavin Peters.
Promised Land or Bust is Moreland & Arbuckle's Alligator Records debut. The Kansas bluesmen re-enlisted producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, the Sword) -- who also helmed their brilliant 7 Cities in 2013. The Kansas bluesmen claim Alligator was a natural fit, since their first signing was Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers, an enormous influence on their sound. Guitarist Aaron Moreland, vocalist and harmonicist Dustin Arbuckle, and drummer Kendall Newby are supported on about half these tracks by guests: bassist Mark Foley and keyboardist Scott Williams adding depth to the band's considerable firepower. Here, roots inspirations of Mississippi Delta and Hill Country blues are re-examined and reaffirmed and balanced with electric roadhouse boogie and hard, heartland rock. What sets M&A apart from virtually every modern blues act is that their energy, rawness, and virtuosic instrumental skill are matched by excellent songwriting. The tunes on Promised Land or Bust highlight and exacerbate the poles of tension between spiritual quandaries and sensual pleasures. Opener "Take Me with You When You Go," is a swampy, howling prayer for cosmic deliverance from earthly struggle. The emotional depth in Arbuckle's vocal is underscored by his haunted harmonica solo and Moreland's supercharged guitar break. (It nods at George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"). The squalling slide roar in "Mean & Evil" fuels a lyric notion that some people are so black-hearted that they're even unworthy of hell. The grungy, gritty, allegorical murder ballad "Hannah" -- written by Mike Hosty -- finds the protagonist in a terminal state of regret after killing his lover. He claims madness -- à la Satan whispering in his head -- but reveals the real truth: the real demon was his rage, fueled by jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. Angels and spirits of disconnection and loneliness haunt the bluesy country-rock in "Mount Comfort." On the Delta-inspired gallop of "Long Did I Hide It" (one of two songs by Ryan Taylor), Arbuckle soulfully imparts the psychological and supernatural consequences of living with secrets. But the carnal beast rises up to claim its own in the swaggering heat on "When the Lights Are Low," a riotous cover of Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee," and Lee McBee's smoking boogie, "Woman Down in Arkansas." (McBee, a fellow Kansan, was a legendary blues harmonica player who passed in 2014.) "Long Way Home" is a snarling tale of betrayal (by a bedeviled red-headed woman). It turns back on the speaking subject though, revealing willing complicity in his circumstances, just as scorching slide guitars and taut snares rip through the middle. The beauty on Promised Land or Bust is that M&A approach the spiritual and carnal as forever inseparable. Here they are bound together in a rowdy, soulful, infectious whirllwind of modern blues; it's all killer, no filler. ~ Thom Jurek