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Long Way Home: Moreland And Arbuckle Champion Hard Work, Friendship On New LP

Gavin Peters

After more than a decade making music together, Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle are experiencing unprecedented success as a recording act. Their new album, Promised Land or Bust, celebrates their hard work and friendship.


Promised Land or Bust marks the start of a new era for Kansas roots and blues trio Moreland and Arbuckle. The band recently signed a deal with the prestigious blues label Alligator Records and, for the first time, landed in the Top Ten on the Billboard Blues Albums chart. The trio's guitarist and co-founder Aaron Moreland says that even before that success he was confident that he and his bandmates, vocalist and harmonica player Dustin Arbuckle and drummer Kendall Newby, had made the right choice.

“At a time when the music business and record labels are now really just large conglomerations that buy up every independent label that’s out there, Alligator’s one of the only ones that’s left standing 45 years later,” he says. “For blues and roots rock stuff they’re the best, and they have been for 45 years. And one of the first records they put out was Hound Dog Taylor who was a massive influence on our sound, so it was kind of cool for it to come full circle in a sense with that.”

Promised Land or Bust found the band working for the second time with producer Matt Bayless and celebrating some of the friendships they've developed with fellow musicians and songwriters across the Midwest, including the late Lee McBee whose tune "Woman Down in Arkansas" is one of the album's critical cuts.

“Lee was a really good friend and musical mentor of mine, great singer and harmonica player who lived up around Lawrence most of his life and toured real heavily on the blues circuit through the late 80s and a bit of the 90s with Mike Morgan and The Crawl, which was a real good Dallas-based blues band,” Arbuckle says. “‘Woman Down in Arkansas’ has always been one of my favorite of his tunes, and it’s been one that we’ve been playing in our live sets for years and one we’ve been talking about recording for years. He passed away about six months before we recorded it, so we didn’t get to have him collaborate on it so now it’s our tribute.”

Moreland notes that he found some challenges along the way, especially in the song "Mount Comfort." He says that although he loves the song, it mostly reminds him of its labored recording process.

“Once we added keys and bass then we realized that the guitar was a little out of tune,” he says. “So I had to go back and replay all the guitar parts. And I didn’t play them on electric guitar like I normally would have. So, to be honest, it’s taken me a long time to really like that song on the record. I can listen to it now and be, like, ‘I’m OK with this,’ but it’s not at all how I play it live. At all. I never play an acoustic guitar on it, and that’s what carries it, musically, for most of the song. I think it’s one of the best-crafted songs on the record; I just have a hard time listening to it. Every time I hear it, I think, ‘Man, I wish this would have turned out different.’

“Obviously, I’m wrong because you like it a lot, but it’s not what I envisioned it to sound like from my perspective," he contiues. "And nobody else agrees with me. I’m totally on my own with this one.”

With a career that goes back well over a decade now, vocalist and harmonica player Dustin Arbuckle took time to write some reflective lyrics for "Waco Avenue." Named after the street where he lived around 2003, the song examines a time when the band was just starting to get attention outside the Wichita scene.

“The dreams started to feel like maybe they could happen,” Arbuckle says. “But it was still all pretty uncertain. There’s a lot of imagery from that time in my life that stuck with me. It just fit really well with the riff that Aaron had come up with, which was something that was definitely out of character for us.”

Moreland adds: “It’s a good example of how it’s smart at rehearsal to have a phone recording. We recorded some stuff, and I went back and revisited it and [heard ‘Waco’] and thought, ‘What is that?’ I would have totally forgot that had we not just hit ‘Record’ at a rehearsal. That was a tune that came and went and luckily got captured. And now it’s a song and may be my favorite song on the record.”

Moreland and Arbuckle will perform at the RedGuard Stage at Riverfest on Wednesday evening for an all-ages crowd, and they'll perform at a 21+ show at Barleycorn’s later that evening.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

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