The independent, roots music business is a tough one. It can be pure and innocent, bound by good times, family, and friends. It can be tawdry, exploitive, and unfaithful.
Sort of like motels.
Motels are the thing of childhood memories—a respite (“It has a pool!”) after a day of driving through an Oregon heatwave, a safe haven for youthful hijinks with family.
Motels are meeting places for the illicit and forbidden, places where one can lose themselves for an hour, a weekend, or eternity.
Julia Kasdorf, a member of the Washington, D.C. Americana and roots community, released Motel regionally a few years ago, and is firing it up for wider distribution this summer. A fine decision as the album is Powerful.
With Lucinda’s focused fire, Mary Chapin’s lyrical eloquence, and Eliza’s poised presence, Kasdorf has crafted a set of memorable songs, eight originals, a pair from the Peter, Paul, & Mary oeuvre, and an A.P. Carter classic.
While the covers are more than enjoyable (especially “Long Chain” and “Lover’s Farewell,”) it is on her originals that Kasdorf clearly shines. She inhabits each song as if it were a living entity. “Motel” is a moving vignette of solitude, and by the time she roared her way though “Cool Water,” we were hitting ‘replay’ and starting all over.
As a songwriter, Kasdorf creates vivid pictures with her chosen lyrics, revealing her influences and history through the rhythms with which she populates her songs. A groovy bass line (Lynn Kasdorf, and last heard on Domenic Cicala’s Come On Over: The Honky Tonk Duets) makes “The Minute I’m Gone” pulse with bluesy longing, and the tempo just pulls us closer.
The protest song we all need to hear—and actually listen to—is “Blue Veil.” Like several of these songs—according to copyright dates—this one goes back awhile, but the message remains the same: we’ve screwed up our planet and we aren’t in any hurry to make amends.
“When I fall down, I reach for you” she sings in “Cool Water,” a testament to faithful support and unwavering understanding: “It’s just my way, but thank God for you.” Again, Lynn Kasdorf shines, laying out all kinds of groovy, pleasing reso/pedal steel noises.
If Julia Kasdorf’s voice is the last ‘under-known’ I get to promote, I can die satisfied—give her a listen. My gosh. “Cold Saturday” revisits significant memories without sentimentality, while “Walk Your Dog” is a rock ‘n’ roll party just shy of three minutes. She visits New Orleans with “Girls Gotta Know” and “The Minute I’m Gone,” stretching from country-rooted folk to groove-infused slow burners.
The independent roots music business hasn’t gotten any easier since Motel was first released. Julia Kasdorf’s Motel is a special album, one I suggest you investigate if you missed it the first time around: there is only one way to genuinely support roots musicians—BUY their music!