For those who prefer their music to come from the heart rather than the music-by-numbers book, Rob Lamothe’s latest album Wishing Well Motel is an excellent reference point. The singer/songwriter is now an adopted Canadian after relocating there after the break-up of his former hard rock band, the Riverdogs (who enjoyed minor success with albums Riverdogs and Bone in the early 1990s), and the change of geographical location together with a different musical direction has obviously been for the better.
Lamothe already has a canon of exquisite acoustic folk solo albums behind him, but the 10 new songs on this collection even surpass the beauty, depth and lyric aplomb of previous album I Am Here Now, and grow in appeal with every listen. The opener “River of my Life” is as good a starting point as any to demonstrate the sheer quality evident here. Led along by some driving percussion and an irrepressible melody, the song is a thoughtful look back at yesteryear, and paints a lyrical picture that avoids becoming overly sentimental or rose-tinted: “I remember throwing stones with my friend Brady King/I remember every summer/every place we used to hide/and the top of the hill/watching Brady’s last ride”.
“Blue”, written about Lamothe’s son Alexander, also avoids that trap and shines in its naked, acoustic charm and is a lesson in how to write a deeply personal song without resorting to syrupy lyrics or cliché. The closing track “When I Am Cold” is another excellent acoustic piece, powerful in its simplicity with a typically emotive vocal performance.
Backed by The Voodoo Brothers, Lamothe also peppers Wishing Well Motel with plenty of full-band tunes such as the soulful “My Achilles Heart”, the evocative “Train Song” and stand-out song of the album, “Edge Of The World”. Once again, in the midst of plenty of atmospheric and distinctly modern guitar textures, Lamothe’s lyrics are uniquely descriptive and meaningful: “The atmosphere is humming / Like an evangelist / Radio static / And it comes to mind to tell you this”. Elsewhere, the delicate melody of “Cup Of Tea” creeps up pleasantly and is yet another fascinating and enjoyable song, whilst two cover tunes are also included—the southern-tinged “Melting Pot” and the acoustic “Raymond”,—both of which fit in perfectly with the organic feel and pace of the rest of the record.
Admittedly, Lamothe is unlikely to achieve mainstream success with an album that shies away from the mainstream at every turn. Yet, Wishing Well Motel is all the more rewarding for that very reason and even though a Riverdogs reunion has been mooted, I certainly hope it’s not at the expense of such wonderful solo material as this.