The Secretariat Motor Hotel
Here’s an album that lives up to the easy country-pop promise of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Shining like sunlight reflected off judiciously applied rhinestones, The Secretariat Motor Hotel would have been the ideal soundtrack for cruising late ’70s Branson, MO., before popular country music became its own stereotype.
The Secretariat Motor Hotel is a very loose concept album. Each song is a vignette about one of the fictional hotel’s fictional guests. Apparently songwriter Terry Miles wrote a hundred character sketches before paring it down to the twelve that made it onto the album. While the instrumentation remains at a drowsy, limp-wristed strumming pace, Miles and back-up vocalist Kelly Haigh make slight changes in their vocal delivery to signify the different characters. Most notable is Miles’ gruff and husky tones on the hardboiled “The Old Wolves” and “The Lonely Nights of Home,” where the vocal melody dips into the same low places Garth Brooks used to have friends.
This album is like an unearthed time capsule from when pop-ish country music wasn’t a complete abomination. You find discs like this every once in a while, but they’re becoming few and far between. We have Ashley Park to thank for keeping the torch slow burning and wonderfully bright for at least another year.