Makin Waves Record of the Week: "Nightbird Motel" by Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band
By Bob Makin
originally published: 10/09/2020
After building a strong following with their Strokes-esque strut and George Thorogood-like blues ‘n’ boogie crunch behind the 2016 debut LP, “The Light in the Day,” Asbury Park-based Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band empicably have coalesced and solidified that sound and their lineup with a who’s who of the Jersey music scene. Complimenting Connor’s lead vocals and guitar and longtime drummer Rich Seyffart’s mighty chops are bassist Chris Dubrow (The Burns, Tara Dente, Avery Mandeville) and guitarist Jeff Linden, who front his own band, the Black Spot Society, and has played in a couple with his older brother, Jack.
The stellar lineup is featured in the band’s latest video for “Dream on You,” the last single from the great sophomore LP, “Nightbird Motel.” I’m not sure if that lineup is on all 10 tracks, but I know they’re hot having enjoyed the virtual album release party at youtu.be/TzqyI0YzUEQ. And so is the album they recently celebrated.
The craft, edgy collection opens with one of its five singles, “When the World Stops Turning,” which features a Call-like guitar tandem that takes the dynamic and unfortunately prophetic tune into as unexpected a direction as the pandemic that proceeded its composition and production, thwarting international plans, as with so many bands.
On the album’s first single and video, “Read on You,” a reverb guitar opening kicks into a hearty love song in the spirit of Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Social Distortion, and The Killers. Speaking of Springsteen, the next track for the Asbury act is the anthemic “Darkness,” but it sounds more like ‘80s Bruce Juice than ‘70s with the slash, burn and bam of “Roulette” mashed with the lyrical sentiments of “No Surrender.”
“Photographs of Johnny” is a train-sounding Clash-like tribute to the Man in Black enveloped in an unrequited love song that also will please fans of Springsteen, especially Rich’s Mighty Max-inspired performance.
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“Blame on Me” is a bayou-burning southern scorcher in the tradition of Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Black Crowes that features Connor’s best of many fine solos. I love the diminished authentic-sounding steel guitar outro. Duane Allman is smiling down from Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven on this one.
“Liquorstore” is one of those upbeat party songs that’s perfect to play with the top down or the windows open cruising along the Jersey Shore. Then “Voice on the Radio” offers more fantastic guitar and Creedence-sounding fun with a bit of U2 and Chris Isaak thrown in to slither the snaky tune along a trembling edge.
The quasi title track “Nightbird” strokes the country rather than blues side of the edgy roots-rockin’ band in a torrid tale about the lonely local losers who frequent a seedy motel. Switch out the motel for a diner, and fans of Edward Hopper’s masterpiece will get a kick outta this one.
With the aforementioned “Dream of You and Me,” Connor takes the resilient sentiment and dark vibe of Albert King’s Stax hit “Born Under a Bad Sign” and turns it into a rough ‘n’ tumble love song. Closing out the collection is the pretty, musically harmonic instrumental, “Reprise,” which somewhat recalls the melody of the rockin’ “Read on You” but in a much more subdued and subtle way. It’s a nice surprise that’s totally out of character for this bright, boisterous band.
If not for the pandemic, the strength of this album would have taken Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band around the country if not the world. Here’s hoping they kicks the ass they deserve to in 2021.
Bob Makin is a reporter for USA TODAY NETWORKand the former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him via email and like Makin Waves on Facebook.