Moses Guest: Graham Guest, Rick Thompson, Jeremy Horton, James Edwards
Southern rock was something that I never really got into. I guess a lot of it has a
lways been a bit too country for me and I tend not to like country music. But every once in a while a southern rock band comes along that defies my expectations and turns out to be pretty damn good. Moses Guest, named after the lead singer Graham Guest’s fifth generation grandfather, is one of those bands and their album, Best Laid Plans, makes for a really good listen. I guess the reason I enjoy them more than most other bands of their genre may be because they have more of a jam band sound, even if I am reminded of “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd as soon as the first track gets into gear.
Although we’ve past that short-lived era in the early to mid 90’s when jam bands like the Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler had hit singles getting regular radio circulation, I still enjoy that looser, more free form style that seems to have deeper connections with the roots of rock. It harkens back to the sounds of blues and old school rock ‘n roll where guitar riffs and piano pieces were just as wild, but a bit more playful. I also like the fact that clever, lively instrumentations takes precedence over the lead singer’s voice. It’s a bit more like classic jazz in that sense, meaning that the whole band is important in the crafting of good music and the lead singer doesn’t stand out as being the most important factor. For example, let’s take that first track I mentioned, which is the title track of the album. The song starts out with the lead singer, Graham Guest, providing vocals over top a nice but pretty typical southern rock sound, but then an extensive instrumental section kicks in. This middle part of “Best Laid Plans” really gives the listener the impression that this track was recorded live in a concert because it sounds so freeform yet so fluid and so well aesthetically coherent. I could not picture this song being played one instrument at a time in a studio and having everything mixed together later. It just evoked that feeling of being there with the band so much that it is impossible to imagine that this or any other song on this album was not highly improvised in the recording studio.
With the strong jazz influences heard throughout the album, it’s even easier to be caught up in the immediacy of the music. Especially on songs like, “Burnin’ Around the Sun” and “Shine” can one feel the jazzier elements of Best Laid Plans mixing in with the southern. For one thing, James Edwards, the drummer, uses a distinct style of fill drumming that adds a lot more oomph to the music rather than just keeping the beat. Keyboardist Rick Thompson often plays the piano as if he were playing with a jazz ensemble in a night club instead of a southern rock band. The elements bring a complexity and a grace to the album that really draw in the listeners.
Overall, I don’t think there’s a track that stands out as being particularly weak on Best Laid Plans. Moses Guest is a very skilled group of performers and I imagine that these songs are extended and tweaked a lot during live performances based on whatever direction the band feels going in. They’re a like the Grateful Dead in some ways. And don’t any Deadites (no, not the creatures of Evil Dead movies, I mean the Grateful Dead fans) come complaining that the Grateful Dead are incomparable in their greatness.
Purchase Best Laid Plans by Moses Guest
Moses Guest – Best Laid Plans
Moses Guest – Burnin’ Around the Sun
Moses Guest – Bi-Polar Express
For more information on Moses Guest, go to their MySpace page.
By the way, I apologize if there were glaring typos or any other errors. I’ve been typing this on my laptop and, as I was finishing up, my dog started slamming her paws on the keyboard. And now she’s throwing her slobbery toy duck at me. I’d better post this before something goes horribly wrong.