Record Review – Kreuger Motel

“Kreuger Motel” by the Kreuger Band Dark Angel Music 2017 – Reviewed by Bill Monahan

I’m ready for the desert island.  You know that game when they ask you, if you were on a desert island with just one record, which record would it be?  I could never play it.  I like all kinds of music and the list would be too long.  There’s never been just one record that I think could satisfy me listening to it again and again alone on a desert island.   Until now, that is.  I’ve found my desert island disc – it’s Kreuger Motel.

Actually it’s three discs in one package, so maybe that’s cheating.  But it has everything I need for my musical listening.  I’ve never heard anything quite like this little purple package.

Krueger Motel is the latest release from Bryan Leckie and The Kreuger Band.  It contains thirty-five songs that he has written, in arrangements that include the cream of the crop of Owen Sound area musicians.  His distinctive voice, which floats between Bob Dylan and Dr. John, has a quality all its own but periodically gives way to vocals provided by The Kreuger Girls.  The songs all chug along with insinuating rhythms, mostly in the form of shuffles, boogies and blues.  Keyboard and guitars are more than just decorations; they create the fantastic moods and dreamscapes that are the essence of the recordings.

The album is currently being championed by Canadian radio icon Dave Marsden, a guy known for his ability to spot outlying talent since his days as a fast-talking AM jock Dave Mickie, through his formation of CFNY – The Edge, which in his day was the only way to be ahead of the curve.  He regularly plays cuts from Kreuger Motel on his Podcast, NYthespirit.com.  So it is amazing and surprising that this album doesn’t have wider distribution than it does.

You can buy it in Owen Sound at the Bleeding Carrot, or in the indie rack at Sunrise Records at the Heritage Mall.  You can send an email to bryanleckie@bmts.com or drop in to The Instant Print Shop on 3rd Avenue East where you can find Bryan most days.

After listening to this album I was surprised that there wasn’t a lineup down the street from Instant Print, with rabid fans anxious to get their hands on a copy or speak to the great man himself and maybe get his autograph.

But I think I understand.  First of all, Bryan himself is a pretty unassuming character, half imp, half bridge troll, who hardly looks like the genius who would create a work like this.  And secondly, this is just the latest in a long line of recordings and songs from a very prolific artist.  When I mention the record to any one of the musicians around the area, they smile and nod, “Ah, yes, Bryan…”  Most have them have played on his recordings.  And even though they like what he does he’s always been there and they have learned to take him for granted.  Just like they take for granted the breathtaking scenery that greets you when you drive down any side road in this area.  In a place where the level of musicianship and creativity in general is far above the standard you’d find elsewhere, he is just another diamond lost among the glitter.

So I realize that I was so struck by it because I haven’t been here too long, and although I’ve heard of Bryan, this is my first taste of what he creates.

There’s another reason too.  I’ve spent half my life living in the twentieth century.  I grew up in the miasma of myths that emerged from The Ed Sullivan TV screen every Sunday night and graced the pages of Look magazine.  I spent summer evenings in Yorkville enchanted by the atmosphere, listening to the music that poured out of open doors at The Riverboat and The Penny Farthing, watched the Go-Go dancers in the upstairs windows at The Mynah Bird.  I spent endless hours at Sam The Record Man reading album covers, flipping through records.  I read the interviews in Playboy about jazz and philosophy, and in Rolling Stone and Ramparts magazines.  I listened for life lessons in folk music, venerated JFK and Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and Dylan, and lost myself in the movies, my parent’s records and True Detective magazine.  All through that there was a guy standing right beside me, a guy I never noticed, and that guy was Bryan Leckie.

On my desert island, when I play Kreuger Motel it will be like opening a jar in which all the ghosts of the 20th Century reside.  They slip in and out of the shadows.  I can smell the whiskey and the perfume.  I’m in New Orleans listening to Allen Toussaint or in Washington Square with Phil Ochs.  I follow Billy Holiday in search of a fix and stand beside Pop Staples when he’s knocking on heaven’s door.  I visit Dylan twice, like the ghosts in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, once when he’s starting out and grateful for handouts from the young Joan Baez and then later when he’s burned out, with a broken neck and a lost voice, retreating to the comfort of The Hawks in their basement studio.  And I brush past the Beatles when they first came along and killed the Village folk scene overnight, putting Tom Rush out of work, and then later when Paul was dead.  Along the way I come across Mickey Spillane, Leonard Cohen, Charlie Parker, Albert Einstein, Charleton Heston (talking to God),Robert Johnson, and a dog that looks like Broderick Crawford.  On my desert island I can go back again and again to visit these people and many more who populated my youthful imagination.

And I can go back even further to the part of the century that happened before I came along.  I visit the golden days of vaudeville, with the Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont and Burns and Allen.  And I can hear my father’s stories again about warm summer nights at the Balmy Beach Pavilion, with the pocket flasks and the Big Bands that came to play.

It’s not just the itinerary that enchants me in this 3-CD set.  There is poetry and wit in abundance, and a wonderful gently irony, as well as a love of life that somehow seems nostalgic in these times.  Set in some jumping grooves are the observations of a very talented story-teller.  Some of the stories are scary with sinister characters lingering in the shadows, while others are joyous.  And all of them are haunted.

So go out and buy this hard to find album (and I’m telling you, you’re a fool if you don’t), get in something to eat and drink, lock the doors and turn out the lights, and listen carefully to a wonderful imaginative journey.  Right down to the last line of the last song, “Her Hideous Scar”, to the last word when you’ll suddenly spit out a mouthful in an uncontrollable guffaw.  The surprise, the wit, the irony and the bittersweet emotion that characterizes this song perfectly summarizes the effect of the whole album.

And I’m leaving tomorrow morning for that desert island.  I’ll be at the rail of the big ship, beside the ladies waving their white handkerchiefs, tipping my hat to the lady below with a blue orchid in her hair, listening to BeBop Bob and the Bebop Band ripping it up on the pier, and off I’ll sail.  That is if I survive the night – because I’m about to check in to the Kreuger Motel.

You can catch The Kreuger Band performing for free tonight (July 23rd) at Owen Sound Harbour Nights, starting at  7 pm

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One Response to Record Review – Kreuger Motel

  1. Gillian says:

    It must be 50 years since I’ve seen mention of Broderick Crawford! Jeez, when I think of my desert island I just want dental floss, Jane Austen and George Orwell…must get Kreuger Motel now.

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