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Published: 2004/07/29
by Jeremy Sanchez

Guest Motel – Moses Guest

Aufheben Records 6 1649300012 2

Moses Guests' Guest Motel is solid, following a two-year release vacancy since their self-titled double disc was deemed one of the top 10 CDs of 2002 by Relix’s Mick Skidmore.

Singer/songwriter Graham Guest's voice is well suited to his sparse but effective style of Southern pick and twang (guitar/banjo) and Rick Thompson's keyboard/organ weave is well orchestrated. Jeremy Horton's bass is never a creative juggernaut, but it does the job, and James Edwards' drumming is tight (of course, it's a studio disc) but colorful enough to allow for a loose breath of strings every now and then.

Guest musician (literally a guest) Steve Palousek's cool pedal steel whine hovers over the opening proceedings. The band seems comfortable and directed. "The box is gone. I make tomorrow on my own," Guest sings.

"It's Our Love" comes jazz-funk and referencing P-Funk. "Why oh why must we be so damn hip? I thought everyone was trippin' on the mothership." Thompson (he wrote "It's Our Love," the only non-Graham Guest written song) trickles a dusting of ivory after the first chorus that foreshadows other album barn burners and an electric closer by Graham Guest keeps the love pumpin' into "Invictus" and the first promising jam. Thompson runs a saloon wash into a church organ's hallelujah screams. James Edwards finds a few nice snare/high-hat pockets and drops into them. Jeremy Horton's bass work is pretty minimal (Up, Down, Up, Down) but escapes for some dancing during the second instrumental section.

Lyricist/singer Graham Guest poses a not necessarily novel, but interesting theory ("2 of Everybody"):. "Well I think everybody is living twice / there is another person who is you / so there happens to be two of everybody." He thinks that for every person, there is another, well you get it. How can you argue against that?

"Victim of Hours," a very String Cheese Incident song that off shoots into a mid-section Lynyrd-Skynyrd like breakdown, speeds through powered by Edward's locomotive snare chugs and some pack-porch banjo picking. "Move on! Got to move along now," prods Guest.

"Bird in my Hand" is a 4 minute, 17 second instrumental — a perfect chance to show off. Why don't they? The music evolves beautifully, creatively even, but what a wasted opportunity to make someone want to attend a concert rather than stopping with your sheet music; stretch it out! The bass begins tentatively alongside Guest's wa-wa. Cycling through a few bars, the drumming becomes more active and everyone has to step up to keep up. Thompson seems to avoid a lot of synthetic-geared keywork, which is to his credit; switching from organ to piano at a moment's notice is both throwing for the listener and a soulful, traditional way to bridge the need to exhibit more expression than a piano can voice alone.

Wonder what Alice in Chains' Layne Staley would have sounded like with a piano in the band and minus his constant depressed roar? "Double-Double-Double God" is a good bet, a song that wouldn't be a lyrical stretch for Alice and her Chains. It was really a treat to hear Guest's voice changeup, already happily sedated by one of the cleanest sounding voices around; the Staley impersonation leaks here and there throughout the album ("Preposterous Box"). "The vision of a little child, standing in the sun. On the playground by the lake, he saw the burning up of everyone. DBL-DBL-DBL God is here, eight times removed from the one. The future is really quite clear, Cause DBL-DBL-DBL God has come." Musically, everyone backs everyone else nicely. Look forward to hearing Graham Guest's voice evolve in this vein.

Constantly teasing at honky-tonk, "Baby, Don't Take Your Love Out On Me" gives up all pretension and the whole fucking band throws on their cowboy hats and pie-plate belt buckles: no harm done. Guest's knowledge of hackneyed country verses is voiced, almost lampooned. "Baby don't take your love out on me," Guest sings, "She says I'm lazy or crazy for drinking alone, but I wouldn't do it if I had someone to drink with at home." "Every light in the house is on" is a staple line in pop-country singer Trace Adkins' catalogue and a hard-held heart-broke cowboy's promise, spun here into feigned ignorance: "I think I remember forgetting to leave the light on." And as it started, Palousek's steel finds the album's fade out.

Guest Motel is a testament to the practice of opting for a little time off to live and think awhile rather than cranking out a schwag contract CD. You won’t find any skip-worthy tracks.

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