CD review: Moreland & Arbuckle – Flood
Moreland And Abuckle must have been flooded with creative ideas recently. Their new CD Flood ranges from moody to cocky, from plaintive to rowdy. Even a little musical experimentation snuck in for good measure.
The opening track Hate To See You Go launches with a distorted harmonica attacking the speakers. Then it is all guitars and attitude from there. Even the Black Keys fans would like it. This is followed by the rolling six-plus minutes of the traditional John Henry recorded live. I would not normally like a live recording or a cover – much less traditional – this early in a CD. But this was a lot of fun to hear them bring great solos and dynamics to the brink of falling apart just to feel them pull it back again.
But then there is an abrupt change. The instrumental Before The Flood is more experiment than song. And the next track 18 Counties comes out of that little interlude without any of the previous energy. It lies flat in comparison to the first two tracks. I get the concept that the instrumental is the rainstorm and 18 Counties is the resulting flood. But that’s trying too hard to think. M&A are great players and put a lot of thought into the music. It’s just best when they load it up with whiskey and Pabst and don’t worry about thinking.
Your Man Won’t Ever Know should be an intense slow burn of an acoustic blues, but whoever allowed the audible buzz in the mixing of the song needs to be rethink putting this on his resume. I tried this track in my car CD player, on my iPod with headphones and on my computer iTunes. I’m picky on these things, so feel free to write it off as just me.
Don’t Wake Me is up next and leaves those duds behind. Western saloon piano and bluesy guitars carry Arbuckle’s sexual conquest braggadocio with all the swagger of the top cock in the chicken coop. The rest of the CD delivers what the first couple songs promised. Can’t Get Clear is controlled fire while Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone could be used in a class entitled “How To Write A Perfect Country Blues Song” if someone built a college of whiskey and music.
The good news goes on from there with In The Morning I’ll Be Gone and What You Gonna Do carrying all of the band’s barroom confidence along with some subtle arrangements thrown in to keep everyone in the band honest.
Red Moon Rising closes the collection by trading in the barroom for the back room. Simply an acoustic guitar, a harominca and a well worn but pitch perfect voice telling a fine story just makes you smile no matter where you are.
Yes, I know there is one more track after Red Moon Rising fades out, but as a banjo reprise of Can’t Get Clear, it just feels like the neighbors who won’t leave after that party is over.
These guys have kegs full of talent. Their songs can keep you driving fast and long. And if you’re a guitar player, you’d love to get into some of their playing and learn from them. As songwriters, they hit a whole lot more than they miss. But thank goodness for MP3s, because I can discard the klunkers here and have a great CD. A lot gets washed away in a Flood. I’d just like to wash away a few songs on this Flood and it would be perfect for me.
– Tim Brennan