Review: The Blues Duo / Moreland & Arbuckle – ‘Goin’ Up The Country’ at Overton-on-Dee Village Hall: 27th June

Posted on: Sunday, Jun 29, 2014

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When promoter, Pete Evans, hails a gig as one of the best-ever he has put on in 18 years, you know something special has just occurred . . . . and after this superb night at the lovely old village hall in Overton-on-Dee, North Wales, it would be hard to disagree with his sentiments!

Opening the show were the ever-popular and area favourites, The Blues Duo – Tommy Allen and Johnny Hewitt, who warmed up a near sell-out crowd with their rousing Chicago blues, featuring Tommy on guitar, vocals and drums, with the brilliant harmonica and vocals of Johnny. A 45-minute set featured tunes from their “Live At Bronte Blues Club” CD, and a host of others . . . highlights being Howlin’ Wolf’s “Riding In The Moonlight”; a stripped-down take on Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rolling Man”, performed in Johnny’s words “Sonny Boy style”; and some actual Sonny Boy Williamson in the shape of “Keep It To Yourself” . . . more on these boys later . . .

The Wichita, Kansas-based trio Moreland & Arbuckle took to the stage after the break and without doubt delivered two of the best sets of rockin’ Hill Country and Delta-flavoured blues I’ve had the privilege to see in a long, long time. The band consist of Aaron Moreland (guitars and backing vocals), Dustin Arbuckle (harmonica and lead vocals) and Kendall Newby (drums and backing vocals) . . . together they created a fantastic sound, being all great players and singers with a balanced mix between their own songs and some choice covers.

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The latest CD release, the highly-recommended “7 Cities” was featured prominently in the sets, with the band opening up with the driving “Modern Boy”, which showed exactly what the band are about . . . Arbuckle’s tough harmonica and great voice; Moreland’s ace guitar and the marvellous drumming of Newby, with added harmony vocals! It’s hard really to ‘tag’ the music . . . often if has that afore-mentioned North Mississippi Hill country feel; then they take you down to the Delta or the rocking bluesy side of ZZ Top . . . that said it is a most heady appealing mix for sure.

Another first set gem was the self-explanatory ” Tall Boogie” . . . it certainly does that, with more driving harmonica and guitar – Aaron Moreland excelling on his cigar box 4-string, which he alternated with the more conventional Gibson Les Paul. The opening track of “7 Cities” was also featured, the great “Quivira”.

Covers-wise they whipped up a storm on Bo Diddley’s “Mona”, with a gorgeous “Pony Blues” – probably the legendary Charley Patton’s best known song – being another highlight amongst many; the ‘cap was doffed’ to another blues giant, Robert Johnson, with an awesome “Preachin’ Blues” . . . fantastic stuff indeed.

Possibly the highlight of the night for many was when Tommy Allen and Johnny Hewitt were invited up to the stage to join the band for two extended jams, and boy, what a treat they were as Hewitt and Arbuckle jousted on harmonica and Allen and Moreland on guitars, with Kendall Newby pushing it all along. The first number was a rocking blues shuffle with solos a-plenty for all; which was followed by a long version of Junior Kimbrough’s “All Night Long” . . . as with all jams they maybe went on for a bit too long, but . . . hey . . . what the hell, it was terrific!

To sum up, this was a quite brilliant night from five great musicians, and kudos to promoter Pete Evans who was shrewd enough to book Moreland & Arbuckle on a non-World Cup night which I’m sure helped to pull in a large crowd . . . here’s hoping to a speedy return to our area for this great band.

GRAHAME RHODES

(Pictures: Ken Peace)

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