Beards! Cigar box guitar! Volume!
Moreland & Arbuckle are not a lightweight outfit, even if harp man Dustin Arbuckle and guitarist Aaron Moreland present something of a little’n’large image out front. As they blast into set opener ‘Mean And Evil’, from new album Promised Land Or Bust, Arbuckle’s vocals are reverb-heavy, and indeed the sound is heavy generally, with Kendall Newby contributing plenty of oomph on drums.
|Moreland right, and Arbuckle left - and Newby|
At their best the heaviness has a groove to it though, that has plenty folk eager to dance to ‘Long Way Home’. They go on to deliver a Hill Country-ish instrumental in ‘Red Bricks’, harp and guitar blending nicely over a skipping, Irish sounding rhythm from Newby, before getting down to some slow boogie on ‘Woman Down In Arkansas’, from the pen of fellow Kansan Leo McBee.
Throughout these songs Moreland demonstrates a pick-less rhythm-cum-slide guitar style that more than compensates for their lack of a bassist, and might well get a nod of approval from Keef.
Arbuckle does strap on a bass towards the end of their first set though, underpinning the likes of ‘Take Me With You (When You Go)’, and freeing up Moreland to deliver a howling, thumb-picking solo on ‘Promised Land Or Bust’ itself, before bringing the curtain down with the grinding, crunking ‘Hannah’.
They take too long getting back on stage for their second set, dissipating the momentum they’ve built up, but they continue to have impressive moments, with some chugging R’n’B, Moreland offering up a couple of decidedly Stonesy riffs, and Newby rattling out interesting, varied drum patterns. They finish the night with a curfew-busting take on ‘John Henry’, underlining their heavyweight credentials.
|Black Cat Bone get their mojo - well, you know|
It has to be said that the audience have been well primed by Black Cat Bone, who mainline on a grinding, grimy Delta blues sound. Over pounding cajón rhythms they mix in wailing harp, edgy vocals, fuzzed up guitar and even slide bass, in a manner reminiscent of Tim Timebomb. With regular guitarist Luis Del Castillo unavailable, special credit has to go to stand-in Harry C Fisher for getting to grips not just with the material but also the dirty, garage-like sound. Highlights include ‘Got To Move’, a Delta classic which they deliver with conviction, and a take on Slim Harpo’s ‘Hip Shake Baby’ served up with Doors-like attitude.
It can all end up sounding like an unholy racket at times – but in a good way. When they get into a meaty groove, and even add some satisfying high harmonies, you have to think that Black Cat Bone are a band with a fair old quotient of punky mojo and hoodoo.