Moses Guest first formed in 1995 and was named after Graham Guest's fifth generation grandfather. The current iteration of the band formed in 1997 and features Rick Thompson on keys and backing vocals, Jeremy Horton on bass, and James Edwards on drums, percussion and backing vocals, while Graham Guests plays guitar, sings and writes lyrics for all but one track on "Light." ("Silverton" by Rick Thompson being the only exception) The band is currently based in Texas and has shared the stage with many prominent recording artists in their 20 years together, performing with the likes of Willie Nelson, the Steve Miller Band, moe., Leftover Salmon, the Jayhawks, the String Cheese Incident and other prominent recording artists as well. "Light" is the band's first album release since 2007's "Best Laid Plans."
Throughout the 9 tracks of "Light," there is a sense of familiarity at play, the feeling that these songs recount sacred memories, illustrating times of play, times of reflection and the understanding and wisdom that comes with time passed. Although the tone and mood of the title track "Light" seems airy and convivial, the lyrics prove to be more deceptive, indicating a sense of resignation, understanding that the very light he sees in others can just as well be darkness. Framing these lyrics are a nice, layered jam reminiscent of the best moments of the Allman Brothers. The second track, "Dawn" serves as a fitting sequel to the first track, offering lyrics of reassurance and contentment, gathered wisdom from life's adventures and the passing of time and days until he is back to "dawn" again. The track is peppered with guitar, lingering keys and lyrics of acceptance and redemption. Many of the lyrics in the early tracks of the album seem to highlight this sort of elusive quality to "satisfaction" and what it takes to truly be satisfied in life. As Graham Guest sings in "Emily," "It's like I can know things and then I can't know things at all/But I'll tune up my strings and I'll play them to an empty hall." There is a sense of wisdom and acceptance at the heart of Graham Guest's lyrics, even as one ponders unanswerable questions, or looks for connection in world that is almost too busy to notice.
"The Light Out of Me" is one of the two longer tracks on the recording, showcasing a pleasing mix of velvety keys, warm vocals, and layered guitar. "Silverton" also evokes this sense of reverence for the past, recounting nights of drinking, revelry, moments of laughter, of "dancin' while driving; cussing out all the passersby." The longest track on the album is "California," which lopes out of the starting gates deliberately, reflecting "here I can stay the same as I was when I was twenty-one." This song ratchets up in intensity, displaying lovely work on the keys, and Rick Thompson's contributions to the album prove particularly tasty and satisfying. After two decades spent performing together, the lyrics and songs of "Light" illustrate a band at a musical crossroads, with songs that reflect on the past and the significance of those memories, but songs that embrace the possibility of the future and the making of new memories. The closing lyrics to "Black Road" seem to catalog this nicely as they state, "Time...to...leave it all behind/Time...to...dig holes in the ground...To start again..."
The album, in general, seems playful and fun, filled with excellent keys and strong guitar. The sense of "memory" is prevalent throughout the tracks in the album, and that seems fitting, considering the years that Moses Guest has played together. The recording is confident and well-executed, showing off, as mentioned in press materials, a "certain sophistication that can only come with 20 years of playing together." I found the lyrics charming, yet sometimes elusive, and that leads to different layers of interpretation. Throughout the recording, I found myself enjoying Guest's lyrics and vocals, but with the expert's tip, I point out Rick Thompson's work on the keys as he has several stellar moments in the recording, and those had me dancing in the seat of my Ford as I drove this Sunday. Surviving 20 years in any relationship is a great accomplishment, much less an artistic one, and the results of this endeavor prove excellent in Moses Guest's "Light." Here's to 20 years together, and to hopefully a lot more to come.
-J. Evan Wade