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I must be a bit of a contradiction in my musical tastes... I like minimalism in music and believe that immense complexity can come out of simplicity, but at the same time I have a special place in my heart for jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish that let improvisation run wild. Few bands can compare to either of these bands in terms of their jams, as both could easily push past the 30 minute mark, but that was not what originally attracted me to either of them and keeps me coming back to listen to them. Instead it was and is their unique blend of styles.
From Houston Texas, Moses Guest has existed in some form since 1995, has a number of albums to their credit, the most recent being Best Laid Plans. They definitely sound in the same vein as both of these bands and other jam bands, but also has some compelling songwriting, and a unique feel. I guess I'd start to describe their sound with phrases like folk rock, southern rock and country flavors, because there is definitely an earthy feel to it that reminds me of bands like the Grateful Dead, but also a lot of pop like more modern jam bands like the Dave Matthews Band and Phish.
All jam bands seem to have to have one thing in common; a general feel of summer about their music, like you need to be out laying back in the grass on a warm summer night to really enjoy it and Moses Guest is no exception as that feel exists in their music as well. They also have a lot of jazz, funk and blues in their sound, and the blend makes them sound similar to their contemporaries, but still very unique.
I haven't been able to check out all this band's albums, but I've listened to a number of tracks and a few have really stood out. "Rag Doll" off of their 2002 release, Moses Guest is a full fledge funky jam where the band really opens up with a great feel and some great playing combined with changing styles makes for a very compelling jam track. The early "Hillybilly" highlights a the groups country and earthy influences as it's it's almost like a bluegrass stomp on steroids, while the more recent "Best Laid Plans" is more of a restrained country rock. "Bird", from their most recent release as well, is a song that is both folksy and jazzy at the same time with intertwining guitar and keyboard parts, a great chorus and a screaming guitar lead that comes out of absolutely nowhere, but works perfectly. "Preposterous Box" from their 2004 release is a folksy jam with hints of country pedal guitar and some slightly cryptic lyrics that add just a little mysterious to the song. "Song for the Dead," also from their 2002 release, along with "Bird" is the song that really stood out to me on first listen. Starting as a slow bluesy thing with a slightly haunting feel, it has a classic pop-like chorus that stands out again with some slightly cryptic lyrics, and results in a pretty catchy, compelling song.
I think what most struck me about this band is their lyrics and vocal style. There are some great lyrical lines in these songs and there is something about the quasi mono-tone delivery that adds a bit of grizzled, earthy authenticity, but is tremendously subtle, like a folk singer, but not truly folksy. This style is a bit reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, but has an almost a slight mystic and hypnotic feel at times that can really draw you in without ever being overtly... anything... just very subtle.
I was also really impressed by the guitar and keyboard work. Several songs have great guitar leads that seem to come on subtlety and suddenly put the song completely over the top into summer jam territory with some great blues, country and jazz flavored licks. The keyboard work throughout is very jazzy and seems to come through at great moments to add that perfect jazzy flourish.
In the end, I was pretty impressed by the band and will definitely keep an eye on them for the future and might check out the rest of their lengthy catalog as well. If you're into jam bands or folk rock, Moses Guest might be right up your ally.
You can download a bunch of tracks from across their career at their website here: http://www.mosesguest.com/
You can also listen to some of their tracks on their myspace page here: http://www.myspace.com/mosesguest