Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Sunset Motel" Album Review

Reckless Kelly's 9th studio album "Sunset Motel" bolts out of the gate with the rollicking "How Can You Like Him," just a hint of what's to come on the much-anticipated release.  It's been a long span between this and 2013's lovely "Long Night Moon" and it does not disappoint.

Reckless Kelly is comprised of David Abeyta on lead guitars, Cody Braun on fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, and harmony vocals, Willy Braun on lead/harmony vocals, guitars, and harmonica, Joe Miller on bass, and Jay Nazz on drums.  The collection was recorded at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas, and brings a new warmth to RK's sound.  Perhaps it's the change in studios (RK hasn't recorded at Arlyn since their debut) or the depth of the content.  There's a quiet maturity felt in the lyrics (all penned by Willy Braun), the harmonies are perfect, and the instruments are classic clean and crisp RK.

"Radio" opens up with the singer flipping channels, most likely trying to find a station that plays good music but the song itself delves into the dark and disenchanting world known as mainstream radio.  The first line says it all in regards to the sad state of modern country music, "Come all you young lads with your trucker chain fads...and your hair just beginning to grow...Well you got a good look and that's all it took to get you booked on the next big show..."  It has a biting tone and rocking guitar riffs, driving the message home about how "artists" are made.

"Radio" segues into one of many standouts "Buckaroo," a mid-tempo modern day cowboy's lament about losing a love.  Meanwhile, the title track is a lovely yet sad ballad about the trials about addiction.  The motel is a symbol of all things bad and good that we encounter on the road of life.  The foreboding sound of the guitars sets the stage for the eerie lyrics "...Four walls to hold me...locked up inside...where the same thing that kills you is what keeps you hope for redemption, no safe place to fall...just a paradise waiting to escape from it all..."

Switching gears from the loneliness of "Sunset Motel," "The Champ is a knockout track about a relationship set to a sport and Wild West theme.  "...High noon and we're standing on Main Street...all or nothing and there's no backing second thoughts about a reputation...just clear leather and the hammer comes down..."  The song rolls along to a fabulous mandolin beat and despite the cheery sound, neither party truly comes out as a champ.  This is a true RK classic and is now a new favorite.

Other standouts include "One More One Last Time," a lush, harmonica driven ballad and "Volcano," a climate change rocker.  The latter has a big chorus and some harsh lyrics regarding the state of this very polarizing issue.  "Sad Songs About You" is an honest, raw look at a crumbled relationship and how the singer is going to cope with singing the songs the rest of his life.  "Under Lucky Stars" quietly closes out the collection, a truly romantic song not often heard from the band.

There's something to be said about the exquisite album artwork and enclosed CD booklet.  It includes a map of the USA and a special motel room key that unlocks more phrases and photos across the map.  It has a retro look, making the listener feel as if they're along for a ride back in time; which ties into the lyrics of this fine album.  Reckless Kelly has released another solid set of songs to cap off their 20th year in the business, go buy this album and let your ears enjoy the journey.

"Sunset Motel" was released on September 23 via Thirty Tigers.