Delaney & Bonnie and Friends – Motel Shot (1971)

By: Matt Wilson

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My first spin of this record was somewhat of an introduction for me. While I was superficially familiar with the earlier works of Delaney & Bonnie – this recording represents a clear and intentional departure from the group’s southern-soul, swampified-Stax movements that seemed to dominate the duo’s earlier records. Motel Shot is a return to something more terrestrial and wholesome. The album is almost exclusively acoustic and mostly devoid of the big horn arrangements and gospel revival feel that I always associated with the D&B sound. This was, indeed, a pleasant surprise.

Knowing this, I suppose it’s not a coincidence that the record includes an impressive guest roster: Leon Russell, Duane Allman, Dave Mason, John Hartford, Clarence White and Gram Parsons, among others. And much like the album’s guests, Motel Shot is an overlooked, yet most-deserving, masterpiece that certainly appeared before it’s time. Debuting just as the alt-country, roots-rock wave was beginning to garner critical attention and acceptance, this Americanized stew was probably not quite ready for prime time. From where I sit, however, the record capably set the table for all that will follow. Capturing a wonderful amalgamation of gospel, blues, country-rock, roots and folk music – Motel Shot deserves recognition among the era’s absolute best – from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs to American Beauty to Sweetheart of the Radio. To me, this record reflects the unadulterated soul of an accomplished duo, seeking purity and simplicity in a time of want, with a timeless honesty and sincerity that remains apparent with each listen.

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