Personnel: Knowlton Bourne (vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drums, percussion); Allison Quick (vocals); Logan Little (percussion).
The debut long-player from the Jackson, Mississippi-based singer/songwriter with a name that sounds like it should adorn the cover of an Antebellum-era etiquette guide, Songs from Motel 43 finds Knowlton Bourne wrestling with twenty-something wanderlust by offering up a Deep South rendering of breezy Southern California power/slacker pop that conjures up images of lost small-town weekends and old federal highway farm stands while invoking the names of decidedly non-regional artists like Kurt Vile and Ty Segall. Bourne's Bible Belt-oblivious Americana is rich with classic rock undercurrents and nods to early-'90s indie rock, but his laconic drawl and penchant for punctuations with distant, freight train blasts of reverb-laden harmonica lend a distinctly rural timbre to the nine-song set. In his bio Bourne cites a childhood spent listening to, among other things, Brian Eno, who looms heavy on the album's more ambient-minded cuts like "Gallup, New Mexico" and the back half of "I Can't Tell/Run," the latter of which is pure stoner Lindsey Buckingham, but for the most part Bourne is content to keep things relatively straightforward, with highlights arriving via the aptly named "Summer Sun" and its like-minded Modern Lovers-esque counterpart "Hangin' Around," both of which occur early on. Much of the remainder of the set is devoted to largely pastoral folk-pop pieces like "Done Movin' On," "Greyhound," and the evocative title cut, all of which have a tendency to drag a little but manage to skate by on atmosphere alone. A sprightly 23 years old at the time of its making, Bourne sounds both boyish and bruised, cocky and hesitant, but never does he sound musically conflicted, and that's what ultimately makes Songs from Motel 43 feel so authentic. ~ James Christopher Monger