Tuneage Tutelage Review - Moreland & Arbuckle - "Flood"

Tutelage Led By Vinny "Bond" Marini Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It was the night before the 2010 Blues Awards here in Memphis, Tn and I found myself at The Juke Joint on Beale Street to see Brandon Santini and Delta Highway.

During the second set of the night Brandon invited musicians in the room onto the stage to jam and one of the participants was Dustin Arbuckle. That night I heard his harmonica playing for the first time and was immediately struck by his technique.

Later that evening, Brandon waa gracious enough to introduce me to Dustin and his partner, Aaron Moreland. I noted them and told myself I would get them on Music On The Couch as soon as possible.

That will happen next Monday, June 21st, when Dustin joins me. Prior to that, I received their album FLOOD, just released on the Telarc International label.

This is their third album, the first three being self-published. What is a trio live - Moreland plays Electric, Parlor, Resonator and Cigar Box Guitars and Banjo; Arbuckle is lead vocalist and plays Harmonica and Brad Horner is on Drums and backing vocals - is augmented by Tom Page (guitar on "Can't Leave Well Enough Alone"; Michael Moreland on keys; Trevor Stewart-Chapman plays Stick on "Before The Flood" and Dave Spindle contributes on bass.

The album opens one of three songs not written by Moreland/Arbuckle, the Little Walter blues classic "Hate To See You Go" and you are immediately struck by the sound of Arbuckle's harp layer over the bottom layers of Horner and Moreland. I was struck by the similarities to the East Texas sounds of ZZ Top - a compliment from this lover of that genre of blues.

Then a traditional blues song "The Legend Of John Henry" follows. A live performance, (no credit given as to where it was recorded) this shows the band as they are on stage. Just Harmonica, drums and guitar. Moreland's Cigarbox guitar is unique in that it has one string which feeds to the bass amp and three strings that feed to the guitar amp. The sound is gutsy and raw and transports you back to the delta.

Arbuckle's vocals are compelling on this song. He makes you feel the legend down to your soul and his harmonica riff in the middle of the song home is something special.

"Before The Flood" follows and is a departure from what came before. a combination of feedback from Morelands guitar as he picks and underneath various notes from the harmonica of Arbuckle it would be as if they added harp to one of the Dead's jams.

It smoothly segues into "18 Counties" a lamenting tune of the destruction of property and lives after the flood. "I am too damn old, too damn old, to start over now". The song is fueled by the rhythm of Horner and Moreland, that driving beat of roots blues and is tied up perfectly with the haunting harmonica riffs played by Arbuckle.

"Your Man Won't Ever Know" showcases the bands delta blues side. Stripped down to just Moreland's simple guitar run and Arbuckle's vocals and harp work. When I got to this song I really began to wonder why these guys are not huge.

"Don't Wake Me" brings us to the sound of Chicago blues, beginning with a barrel house run on the keys by Michael Moreland. Each player takes their turn to show their wares here...

"Bound and Determined" adds Tom Page to the writing credits and has what I call that railroad blues rhythm pushing it forward.

"Can't get Clear" appears twice on the album, first as an electric blues version and then a banjo version & Personally, I preferred the banjo version as I think it holds the song together better.

"Can't Leave Well Enough Alone" is an acoustic Piedmont-type blues song that is well formed and brought me to a different place than the rest of the album.

"In The Morning I'll Be Gone" brings us back to roots blues with an influx of electric blues.

"What You Gonna Do" is the one weak point on the whole album. It sounds like thousands of songs out there.

"Red Moon Rising" a delta blues based song is also acoustic in nature, but does not have the strength of "Can't Leave Well Enough Alone"

Here is what I know. Throughout the weekend as I was doing mundane chores outside the house, I found snippets of these songs rolling around in my head. Now this happens with songs I have known for years, but rarely, if ever, does it occur with an album I have only listened to a few times.

FLOOD is a winner in my book, Moreland and Arbuckle are on the cusp of being household names in homes where the blues is admired and appreciated.

This is a band to watch and a band to listen to. This is a MUST BUY.

5 Out Of 5 Turntables