Moses Guest

Trimming down from their last CD -- a sprawling double album -- leads to mixed results.

Moses Guest's last album -- a 2002 self-titled double CD -- was one of the best local music releases in recent years. But the danger for a band in hitting so high a mark is that your next effort is hyper-scrutinized and usually suffers by comparison. That's the inevitable case with Guest Motel, though in some ways, this album is actually better than the last. By not trying to simply repeat the past, singer-guitarist Graham Guest, keyboardist Rick Thompson, drummer James Edwards and bassist Jeremy Horton have created something different -- a finely tuned single CD with tightened songs, more focused lyrics and enough differentiation in material to please their jammy, rock and rustic constituencies alike. Thompson's keyboards, as always, tinkle at just the right time and hit the right notes, and Guest even allows himself some solos here and there. In fact, there could have been more of them, come to think of it.

Corporate America must be on Guest's mind a lot these days. The drudgery of cubicle dwelling gets tackled in two of the disc's finer efforts, "Preposterous Box" and "Victim," a hoedown-like effort that could have been an outtake from their last record. The country-fried "Baby, Don't Take Your Love Out on Me" and the jam-friendly "Invictus" also stand out. And the buoyant, snappy "It's Our Love" could just be a break-out single.

But other songs such as "Jackson" (yet another in a string of road songs from the band) and the meandering "Dead Again" seem only like throwaways. And the political "Double- Double-Double God" has potential that's largely squandered by its sparse lyrics.

Still, Moses Guest remains one of Houston's best acts, both on record and live. Actually, their sizable following in other states like Colorado make them transcend the "local" tag. If Guest Motel doesn't reach the band's best potential, it's still a place that's definitely worth checking into more than once. Just don't steal the towels, please.

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