On paper, call them a blues band. But that serves as a catch-all and easy way out to define Moreland and Arbuckle, the Kansas-based trio that in 11 years and six albums have managed to explore Chicago and Kansas City, Texas and Mississippi Hill Country blues while letting country and American rock ’n’ roll influence what is now their sound. It makes sense, because blues has been at the source of just about every style of modern music for the last 70 years. Chuck Berry, Bill Monroe and Deep Purple all have the blues at their source.
Moreland and Arbuckle, (Aaron Moreland on guitar, Dustin Arbuckle on harp and vocals, and Kendall Newby on drums) is one of six acts performing on the Blues Train, a rolling train ride of rocking blues music happening Friday and Saturday on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
The trio recently put out “Promised Land or Bust,” a record exploring traditional American blues with undertones of big rock; it was produced by studio wiz Matt Bayles, who is most known for producing metal bands Mastadon and The Sword.
“We are continuing to try to push ourselves outside of the box, try to break some new ground and do some new things. One thing that was different, we made a point of intentionally coming back and doing some more traditional/roots/electric blues kind of stuff like we hadn’t done on the last couple of records,” said Arbuckle. “It was at the same time consciously more rootsy but also still continuing to push forward. It was a lot of fun to make this record.”
Pushing forward means making a record that’s a reflection of record collecting, and enjoying a wealth of sounds whether it is cocktail crooning or big ’70s rock riffs. It’s coming from an honest and unpretentious place void of gimmick like the heartland itself, a genuine dose of original roots music.
“Blues has always been at the core of what we do. If you go back a few years, that Mississippi blues sound, that early Chicago blues sound, was definitely a predominant part of what we were doing. As we move forward that definitely is still there. But we always talk about the fact that we love a lot of music. And we have allowed more and more of that to flow into what we’re doing as we move forward” said Arbuckle. “There are aspects of heavier rock in what we do, more of that as we’ve gone forward. We’ve occasionally let some country music get into what we do, and soul and funk. On this record there’s even almost a jazz tune. I think the important thing is doing everything you can to understand all those genres so everything can sort of tastefully come together and it doesn’t feel like a contrived thing where you’re trying to be eclectic. For us, it’s all happened organically; this is the stuff you love so it finds its way into your music.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]