Monday, December 10, 2007

Reviews:: Twilight Hotel Highway Prayer

On a casual listen you could label Twilight Hotel alt-country and move on, but you'd be missing a lot of the hidden treasures and selling Dave Quanbury and Brandy Zdan short. There's more than enough country mosey and old time harmonies to satisfy fans of the genre, but the Winnipeg duo draws on diverse influences and a stable of talented musicians to explore different textures and styles.

The new record opens up Viva La Vinyl a track with a rollicking guitar line and an upright bass backing the duo scatting about the beauty of records. The back porch feel of the track really sets the tone for the album, complete with the occasional rim shot shellac of the drums. The roots vibe continues on No Place for Woman, where Brandy takes the lead in a Grace Potter organ driven number. Richard Bell tinkles the organ ivory nicely and adds the little flourishes that fill out her strong vocals.

The band is quite comfortable playing straight ahead country, like the steel laced Impatient Love and Slumber Queen. The latter showcases Bell's organ work again, as the atmospheric notes add another layer of emotion to Zdan's vocals and the sparse arrangement matches her tone of regret and despair nicely, but it's the interesting wrinkles the duo reveal halfway through the record that really hit home with me.

Dave pays tribute to his Irish roots with the bar room serenade The Ballad of Salvadore and Isabelle (the line about an avocado farm is perfect) and Brandy drifts into a beat poet monologue on the spiky, cold-hearted Iowalta Morningside. The accordion of Shadow of a Man takes me into a Waits-ian state of mind. I'd be remiss to not mention the fantastic jam session feel of my favorite track on the record, If It Won't Kill You. Dave takes the lead and Brandy plays the role of June Carter backing him nicely, but it's the band's work that makes the track sparkle. Linden's dobro and Bell's mellotron sound great and the acoustic solo is a nice addition.

The record closes with two of the more straight ahead numbers - Brandy's confessional Sometimes I Get a Little Lonely, and the simple songwriter style of Sand In Your Eyes. It's a tear in the beer type number that puts a nice close on the record.

MP3:: Viva La Vinyl

I feel like I should mention this was the last recording Richard Bell ever played on, especially since his contributions are so noticeable and important to the success of the songs. Twilight Hotel paid the man a nice tribute by including Best Buds, a bonus track of Bell and Colin Linden playing together. The song is, to quote Linden, "what it sounds like when 2 best friends who have played music together for the last 18 years hit on a groove."

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Posted at 12:03 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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