During their first appearance at Wheeling's annual Heritage Music Bluesfest, Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle were immediately recognized as impact players.
Pleasure boat cruisers along the Ohio River shifted into neutral as the Kansas duo delivered a pumped-up set of original material featuring Arbuckle's classic harmonica and Moreland's amazing hand-crafted guitar consisting of four strings stretched across a cigar box.
So impressed were the duo by the local festival's A-list lineup and Heritage Port's natural setting, they expressed a strong desire to return this summer.
Moreland & Arbuckle's 2011 Bluesfest gig included a number of songs from their second CD, released late last month on the Telarc International label, a division of Concord Music Group.
The band's 2010 debut disc "Flood" was well-received in the blues-rock community and served as an excellent precursor to their ensuing live performances which continues to generate good vibrations across the land.
With "Just A Dream," Moreland & Arbuckle have taken it to the next level. The idea was to keep on keeping on with an objective to enhance their sound in the studio.
"We wanted to retain the gritty, raw feel that we created on our prior release but push everything up about four notches as far as sound quality, the selection of songs, the production, and virtually every other aspect of the record," Moreland advised.
The duo co-wrote eight of the record's 12 tracks and an upgrade here is evident as well.
"Everything we've done in the past was set up in one big room and recorded in a couple of days," Moreland continued. "On this record, we spent far more time and our quality control was far more stringent than it's ever been. And it shows."
What artist or band, you say, isn't going to tout the new product as a significant improvement? True enough. In this case, however, M&A deliver on virtually every level.
"When this record was finished, I thought, 'Yeah, this is what I wanted to achieve,'" Moreland contends. "This is 14 steps beyond anything we've ever done."
The new CD opens with "The Brown Bomber," a Ryan Taylor cover the duo rip through with their patented 'Creature From The Black Lagoon' backdrop.
Though Moreland & Arbuckle continually shine on blues-influenced material, 'Just A Dream's landscape is filled with a century's worth of styles.
"It's hard to say exactly what we are and what we do," Arbuckle proclaims. "Blues is definitely at the core but we're huge fans of all sorts of American music. There are elements of traditional country, vintage rock, soul and all that sort of stuff."
An additional highlight of the band's new disc is a contribution and performance from legendary guitarist Steve Cropper whose "White Lightnin''' is the record's closing track.
"The version Steve sent us on a demo was kind of a slow blues tune," Moreland disclosed. "Our version is about 45 miles an hour faster than the original. It has a nice hook and it was great working with Steve who is about as prominent a figure you'll find regarding this kind of music."
The Lane projects M&A will discover themselves in-demand live players in 2012 with dozens of festival dates in their immediate futures.
"If the band has any plan at all, it's to just keep evolving and making great music without getting stuck in a rut," Moreland noted.
"This is definitely the best record of our careers and a jump-off point to hopefully rope in a lot of new fans that have never heard of us before. I think we're lucky in that we have a unique sound and style that I don't really hear anywhere else."
IT'S flip a coin night in Pittsburgh which is hosting a trio of recommended live gigs. Legendary 70s icon Jackson Browne plays the Steel City's historic downtown Heinz Hall for an all ages show at 7:30....Northern California singer/songwriter Jackie Greene is playing the intricate Altar Bar. Greene is an exceptional live performer...Mr. Small's Theater in Millvale welcomes roots-rocker Sam Roberts and his band at 8 p.m.....
Next month, Allman Brothers and Govt. Mule guitarist Warren Haynes plays the Carnegie Music Hall on the 11th....Mr. Small's hosts The Jayhawks for an over-21 performance Sunday the 16th.....
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org