OTTO MOBILE and the MOANERS – RESTLESS SUN
2012 – Self Released
Although this is their second album, until receiving my review copy of this quite addictive and diverse recording I had been unaware of this four piece band that brings a little much needed originality and freshness to the catchall sub genre of alt. country. Matt Lundquist’s vocals are very much from the Gram Parsons school of ‘Cosmic American music’ as is his writing and when you add the
beautiful female vocals of Elliott Peck it’s easy to see why comparisons to Gram and Emmylou are often made. There are plenty of duets on this excellent album that do echo that pair of recordings from the early 1970s but there is a lot more to this music than merely being a copy of the country rock of times long gone.
The band is made up of Matt Lundquist on vocals, guitars, pedal steel and harmonica, Elliott Peck also on vocals as well as piano and organ, Connor Jon O’Sullivan, bass, Wurlitzer and organ and Rob Schwartz on drums. The first two will always get the credit but it is quite apparent on this album that without the talents of O’ Sullivan and Schwartz, Lundquist and Peck would be unable to go off on
their melodic meanderings that, thanks to the quality of musicianship, at times have an almost improvisational feel. The harmonies often have an appealing discordancy that gives these tremendous songs a satisfying edginess, added to which is a little ramshackle feel that that can only be successfully attained by musicians of quality, thus ensuring there is a casual but tight, confident feel to proceedings! Both vocalists have entirely different vocal styles and sounds but that slight clash helps to give a fair degree of originality to their duets and harmonies, as if at times they are recording the vocals without the other being aware and then putting them together afterwards. Because both are such good vocalists it works incredibly well, even at times giving a strong soulful feeling not really explored since the heyday of Delaney and Bonnie and occasionally having echoes of Mark Olson and Victoria Williams! It seems on the strength of this album that Lundquist is also a guitarist of huge ability, with his command of the various roots genres contained within, such as country, delta blues and even r ‘n’ b, giving more scope to his equally good songwriting, with every song written by him
except for “Hold On For Dear Love” which he wrote with Suzy Rothenburg.
The album kicks off with Don’t Be Alarmed, a slow haunting ballad with lovely steel guitar, that echoes the feeling attained by Gram/Emmylou or Mark/Victoria on a song that depicts the
mellow mood at the start of a new weekend! This is appropriately followed by a tale with the same instrumentation, pace and mood, this time depicting the start of a new working/school week for a family on the title track Restless Sun. The main talking point on this album of highlights will probably be the travelling trilogy that starts with Pinin’ For Colorado. This song probably more than any other struck me as being reminiscent of Olson/Williams, with it’s quirky but hugely appealing vocal blend. The haunting steel guitar is there on this slow moody story of a man who sets out in his car on a long journey across America to meet his love. On the following song, Ol’ Blue, the tempo is upped a little as he extols the virtues of his old car that is carrying him on the journey followed by One Step, as he tiredly reaches journeys end and meets up with his lover. Matt and Elliott take a solo verse each, accompanied by the gorgeous steel guitar and harmonies. The following song Sunny Day
Blues is a total, if excellent contrast, being a tremendous blues rocker with Elliott’s incredibly soulful solo vocal and some fiery delta slide guitar from Matt. Next is the soulful blues of Guilty As Charged, with Matt taking an aggressive lead vocal, on a song that has a similar attitude and atmosphere to Delaney and Bonnie with it’s bluesy guitars and organ dominating.
This struck me as being a very good album from the very first play and is pleasingly one of those recordings that seems to improve with every listen. There is a quality, depth and freshness to this bands music that very few are able to match. I will certainly be seeking out their debut recording and looking forward to many more albums of a similar quality in the future.