The National Reserve- Motel La Grange
You can listen to Sean Walsh and The National Reserve’s Motel La Grange and be reminded of so many different strands of music from the past without being quite able to put your finger on what memories are being tickled. There are elements of the old Bob Seger in the vocal parts, of The Band in their roots Americana vibe, of Little Feat in sheer funk but it’s nowise derivative of any of these; it stands on its own, even if it does bring back memories of something else.
If I were a musician, I’d hate to be compared to someone else, even if the comparison was favorable. So, strip all the preconceptions. Don’t compare these guys to anybody. They can withstand the comparisons—it just doesn’t do them justice.
Side “A” has some rockers, funk and a ballad. There are horns, a deep richness from the organ, and biting, sliding guitar with some tasty fills, but the thing that pulls it together is Sean Walsh, singer, guitarist and producer. You could play this record in a truck stop bar and nobody would bat an eye, but there’s more to it than hitting the standard themes and riffs- there’s that dangerous word –“authentic” that has become marketing-speak for prepackaged commodities that are anything but; yet if I had to chose a word to describe what I’m hearing, it’s that—the real stuff, the kind of music you’d hear in a bar, but at a far higher level of musicianship, tunefulness and vocal quality than you’re likely to hear in most road houses and bucket of blood bars.
I used to catch Roy Buchanan playing the local watering holes outside of Pittsburgh and nobody at the time thought he was more than a great regional act, a guitarist with amazing chops. It took a long time for people to realize just how good he was—and that legend now surrounding him, well- I’m not sure he would have paid much notice.
These guys don’t need room to grow, they sound fully realized on this album: listen to the harmonies on the title track, on Side “B”– those great guitar filigrees and swells that fill the space in this slow-paced ballad, against an evenly paced beat. (A little pedal steel adds a lot here).
It’s well crafted, recorded in Brooklyn and a bunch of other studios and mastered by Sterling. Pressed at QRP, the copy is quiet and plays nicely.
This is also a mature sound, one that comes from working together for a while. Apparently the band has been playing the Brooklyn bar scene for a while and it shows in ease with which they meld together. Although there’s a whole raft of additional performers on this record, from the horn section to extra vocals, keyboards, percussion and that lovely pedal steel, my bet is, you could walk into a bar in Brooklyn where these guys are playing and hear pretty much what you are getting on this record. And that’s part of the magic of this record- they sound like a real band and a damn good one. I enjoyed this record immensely and would probably have a great time hearing them at a club. In the meantime, you have this record….