Wily Bo Walker Band – “Motel Blues is available on Bandcamp.
by Walter Price
In a 2008 Billboard interview legendary singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III talked about his 1971 track “Motel Blues”, explaining, “I wrote it when I was probably 25. It’s about me trying to get a girl up to my motel room, and I actually say in the song, “sleep with me and save my life.” Now, I’m in a hotel, and it’s not that you’re not very attractive! But now when I’m in a hotel room, whenever I try to get someone to come up it’s usually to fix the television or figure out why the WiFi isn’t working or to open the windows. So that’s the difference between a 25-year-old guy and a 61-year-old guy. But in another way, when a 61-year-old guy sings, “come up to my motel room, save my life,” I think it has a different quality to it. It’s desperation. It’s interesting; I was obsessed with growing old even when I was young. And that’s a theme.”
And now, ten years on, UK bluesman Wily Bo Walker has reinterpreted the track into a soul-twisting after hours tale. Walker, no stranger to the road, late-night haunts and the subsequent loneliness of roadside hotel rooms, has produced an almost eerie cover in a palpable tone that is a bit more smokey café noir troubadour in delivery than what fans may be accustomed to (unless you’ve seen him live). But therein is the beauty of Walker’s powers. With subtle changes here and there from the original, a heavy portion of the magic is the masterful guitar work. The bluesy backbone of this updated version, driving the experiences of the traveler’s story into new, darker territories.
I asked Walker why he decided to take on such a track, “Motel Blues’, as with any cover version I undertake, my interpretation is radically different from the original The original song was by Loudon Wainwright III and I first heard it on a sampler album way back in the seventies.
“The album was called ‘New Age of Atlantic‘ and featured a few artists I still include in my sets from time to time – Dr. John, Gordon Haskell, John Prine and this Loudon Wainwright III song. ‘Motel Blues’ just resonated with me back then and over the years has become a pretty much regular inclusion in my sets, whether my big bands, my four piece ‘Wily Bo Walker Band’ or my solo shows.
“I won’t tell you ‘tales’ regarding how the song lyrics depict life on the road for me specifically, as that would be quite tawdry and come across quite seedy I think, but the song does carry a truth that will resonate with traveling musicians all over I believe.”
I’m certain those “tawdry” road tales would fill volumes, but as we wait for Walker to come clean, check out his version of “Motel Blues” below as well as a link to an animated film by Susan Shulman for the song.
THE WILY BO WALKER BAND
Watch the Susan Shulman animated video.
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