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Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations Issue First Full-Length Album, 'My Getaway'

Jerry Cadieux

My Getaway is the full-length debut album from Dustin Arbuckle & The Damnations.

The record features songs written primarily since the group's inception in 2017 and taps into the collective's rich confluence of musical influences, including various strands of blues, rock and jazz.

Joining Arbuckle on the recording are bassist Mark Foley, guitarist Brandon Hudspeth and drummer Kendall Newby. (Caleb Drummond performs bass duties on three tracks.)

Arbuckle, who spent more than a decade collaborating with guitarist Aaron Moreland in the band Moreland & Arbuckle, says that the new album serves as a kind of calling card, demonstrating the unit's musical diversity and roots-driven sound.

He spoke with KMUW about the album from his home in Wichita.

Interview Highlights

When did this material start coming together?

We started writing some of the songs as early as the summer of 2017, right after the band came together. But over the course of about a year and a half, we got the group of songs that wound up being on the album. We held off on pushing the band that hard until we felt like we had enough stuff that we felt was of really good quality, for a strong full-length record. We had that together by late 2018 and decided it was time to get into the studio and lay all this stuff down.

Did you view this record as a kind of calling card?

We thought it was important to represent how much different music we love and that we incorporate into our style. On the other hand, that just sort of happened organically with the songs that we wrote. But I do think it was a situation where we wanted to definitely come out of the gate strong and really show people who haven't heard the band yet who we are and what we can do.

How did "My Getaway" become the title track?

I think it was probably a couple of things. For one, we just liked the ring of it. We were having a hard time deciding what we wanted to call the record. Maybe it wasn't the most creative way to figure it out, but we looked at the song titles on the album and said, "What has a good ring to it?" We were sitting in a van on the road, I think in Pennsylvania, and throwing ideas back and forth. Everybody agreed that My Getaway was the one.

I also think it's maybe the best song written by our friend Lee McBee, who was a big musical influence on both myself and our guitarist Brandon Hudspeth.

Tell me about "Across The Desert," which has this incredible atmosphere.

That song started out as our version of a Muddy Water's tune called "She's Alright." It's one of his early Chess recordings, from around 1949 or 1950. It's something that we learned and started playing pretty early on, for our very first shows. But I started getting other lyrical ideas in my mind as we were playing the tune.

The first lines of the song are about a guy marching across the desert on a road made of broken bones. I started getting all this imagery of people trekking across long distances, pioneers going out West, then other kinds of crazy imagery started to follow that.

I started singing those lyrics with the song and the way the guys play, it is certainly not some sort of straight-up cover of how Muddy and his guys did it. The song just sort of transitioned into being our own.

There's this quality to that song and some of the other material that's got this kind of drone to it, which is kind of common in the blues. Can you talk about where that comes from?

That sound is really indicative and characteristic of the early Mississippi blues stuff that then was electrified and transitioned into Chicago blues. That's a sound that has always been really inspiring to me musically. I've always dug that that just driving, drone-y almost trancelike sort of a vibe that you get in especially like Mississippi Hill Country blues but also in the Delta stuff. Songs like that have always sort of drawn me in, and obviously, that stuff has been a big part of my musical life for a long time.

Tell me about the lyrics to "Dealer's Lament." It's this character study of a guy who at certain times is everybody's friend and then nobody's friend.

That's absolutely what that song is about. I've known people like this in my life, I think a lot of us have, they have something that a lot of people want. But they're maybe not the easiest person to be around. They maybe think of themselves as almost some sort of enlightened sage or something of that nature. They love to expound on all their theories and philosophies and, unfortunately, maybe a lot of it's maybe a little too out there or has no basis in fact. They just want to lay all this stuff on you.

Then, when it's time for you to go, you maybe don't want to come back around too quick. Or maybe the situation is they wonder why people aren't always super eager to hang out for all that long. So they're left with this lament of, "How come people only call when they need something, even though I've got all this wisdom and knowledge and fascinating stuff to offer everybody?" It's a very specific kind of person.

The record closes out with "Swingling." It's a little bit different than the other material on the record.

That was a tune I came up with, just sitting around the house one afternoon. I've always liked these sort of mellow swing tunes, and I've always liked the idea of putting something that's a little bit different on the end of a record, just to take you out, leave you on a kind of a different note, something mellow. I think a really good example of that is on the Los Lobos Colossal Head album. They finish with a kind of slow, atmospheric bluesy instrumental called "Buddy Ebsen Loves The Nighttime." It eases you out of what you've just been focused on.

How important was it for you to make a record that was succinct? There was that period where people were making these sprawling, 80-minute albums that could sometimes be exhausting, and we've returned to this point where records are often 45 minutes maximum.

I think the comeback of vinyl has kind of helped because it's maybe reminded both listeners and artists what kind of an ideal length for a record is. If you look back in the day, you know, a double album was as long as some CDs were that were made in the '90s. I remember a friend of mine said one time, "Why would you be arrogant enough to think that anybody would want to listen to your recorded music for 80 minutes?"

I would imagine that this year has offered you some more "downtime" than usual. Have you picked up any new hobbies, things like that?

I've been cooking a lot more. That's been a lot of fun, experimenting with things that I haven't necessarily tried to cook before. My wife and I have definitely become far better cooks than we were prior to the pandemic. So that's kind of been one fun thing, but I've also taken the opportunity to spend more time with my family. Earlier on, when things were really locked down, my 3-year-old son, Hiram, and I were taking hiking adventures, trying to find spots a couple hours out of town. That was really an amazing thing. I hope it's been as positive for him as it has been for me.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.