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Moreland & Arbuckle - 1861
Northern Blues 

Run Time: 50:22

This Kansas duo formed in 2005 and after only playing together for three years reached the finals of the 2005 IBC Competition. It was this national stage that allowed the duo to break out of their regional confines and this album, titled after the year their native Kansas joined the Union, is their label debut to the world. 1861 is a Jayhawk romp through acoustic Pre-War Blues, Hill Country stomp, and countrified blues rock that indelibly produces one of the finest newest releases of 2008.

The band explodes through the Hound Dog Taylor signature “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia” in the very beginning, making you wonder how two young fellows from the farthest confines of Kansas can peg the juke joint sound of Hound Dog so well. Backed by the blue-eyed soul sounding vocals and roaring harp of Dustin Arbuckle the delta guitar sounds of Aaron Moreland and rounded out by Brad Horner on drums, the unit is tight and concise and consistent. From the back porch southern rock of “Fishin’ Hole” to the acoustic tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell “Tell Me Why” down to the Allman Brothers’ inspired B-3 solo by Chris Wiser on “Diamond Ring;” the album is ablaze from start to finish. However, it’s the covers and the traditional blues tracks here that are the bands penchant.

Check out the stomp of RL Burnside’s “See My Jumper Hangin’ Out On the Line” with Arbuckle’s scorching fire of a harp solo over top the solid juke guitar of Moreland. Then, the resonator slide of “Teasin’ Doney” comes straight out of a pre-war songbook somewhere. Then, Arbuckle on harp and the chunky guitar of Moreland conjure thoughts of Jimmy Reed on “Please, Please Mammy.” Another one that conjures thoughts of past masters is the John Lee Hooker boogie of the Ryan Taylor “Pittsburgh in the Morning, Philadelphia at Night.” The mournful gospel-blues guitar and vocal add a touch of drama and depth to the album with the song “Wrong I Do.”

Honestly, for me, the album could’ve finished there and been great, but once in a while a song choice is made that some don’t agree with. This would be the case for me with the final track instrumental “Wiser Jam” in which Chris Wiser returns to the Hammond organ and this six and a half minute long song seems disjointed, out of place, and a bit self-indulgent. I screamed at my CD player and shook my head, “We know you’re good. Why?” However, this lone track and my own personal tastes shouldn’t prevent you from buying this record. It’s well worth the price. My suggestion would just be to skip the final cut and judge the album by the rest.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

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