Connor Bracken and The Mother Leeds Band Check into Rock and Roll Goodness With

Nightbird Motel

Review by Kenny Bieber

October 2020

What do you get when you mix together the musical DNA of The Black Keys, Tom Waits and early Springsteen and add in a dose of contemporary Jersey shore rock and roll flavor? The correct answer would be Asbury Park rock outfit Connor Bracken and The Mother Leeds Band who after two years have finally released their long awaited second LP Nightbird Motel. Following up their debut record The Light In The Day released in 2016, the band has endured and evolved many stylistic and lineup changes all while maintaining a steady fanbase and cultivating an exhilarating live show in the process. Now with their second full-length, the band make good on their potential and momentum and deliver an exhilarating, vibrant and well-rounded collection of songs that showcase the group’s fast, loud and swaggering brand of old-school rock and roll.

The album kicks off appropriately with “When The World Stops Turning” a rollicking live-wire anthem with a rousing chorus and some electric riffs to match. Bracken as a vocalist and performer is in fine form throughout attacking each track with a vital intensity, authority and feeling that manages to anchor the listener. While The Mother Leeds Band excel at the hard rock jams, this record also indicates they’re adept at a bit more as well. Early single “Read On Me” is a sincere bluesy sing-along number with one of the band’s most infectious hooks along with some of their most tender and catchy lyricism to date. Track “Liquorstore” is an energizing romp with Jersey rock coursing through its veins and “Darkness” channels gothic rockers such as Tom Waits with its moody atmosphere and abstract imagery but still manages to contain a visceral punch all the same.

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Of course the band didn’t earn their nickname “The Loudest band in Asbury Park” for nothing and many of the album’s highlights reflect that. “Blame On Me” is a full-on hard rocker featuring one of Bracken’s most committed performances and equally powerful work from the rest of the band resulting in an immediate highlight. The band also honors their Jersey rock roots for the duration of the record. With the Asbury Park-inspired “Photographs of Johnny Cash” a blissful rocker with another knockout chorus and sweet riffs and “Voice on The Radio” a shimmering and bluesy number with some spiky guitar solos and a suitably haunting vocal performance by Bracken himself. Thankfully as well, the record has a strong sense of momentum and each track manages to leave an impression and fit cohesively alongside each other.

Credit also must be given to the organic chemistry the band shares on each track. Recent additions Chris Dubrow on bass and Jeff Linden on lead guitar both offer strong work throughout and help add texture and style to the proceedings. Longtime drummer Rich Seiffert manages to anchor each track with some varied and tight grooves and rhythms that add shape and structure to the arrangements. The interplay among each member is seamless and allows for all of them to feel unified among one another while respectively showcasing their unique talents. The performances and arrangements indicate a notable level of progression of the band and the taut chemistry displayed enriches that.

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The true range of the group’s talent could be found in the album’s centerpiece title track “Nightbird” a sultry torch rock number that recalls early Eagles and The Band but with a contemporary edge. The tenderness of Bracken’s vocals and the band’s smooth yet visceral playing makes for one of their most eclectic and dynamic songs thus far. Closing track “Dream of You and Me” sends the record off a triumphant and hopeful note. With its emotional vocals and soaring solos the track is a blast of energy while also establishing itself as one of the most uplifting numbers on the album.

In times such as these, it’s very apparent we could all use something to lift our spirits and minds. With Nightbird Motel, Connor Bracken and The Mother Leeds Band make good on their potential and deliver a hopeful, exciting and joyous collection of songs that remind us why good rock and roll music matters. While there’s much uncertainty for the future these days, the future of the Mother Leeds Band is shaping up quite brightly here. Just wait live music is a thing once more and then the world will really stop turning.

Top Tracks: “Blame On Me”, “Photographs of Johnny Cash”, “The Dream of You and Me”, “Nightbird”, “Read On Me”, “Voice on The Radio”

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