Guest Post: Roanoke – Wolf Motel EP

by Cat Nuwer 

In 2018, I discovered a band called Roanoke through a stunning song called “Tennessee Stone.” I was immediately entranced by their magical rock n’ roll style – they sound like they time traveled from my favorite era of music, the 70s. But Roanoke also has a grassroots Americana vibe with a mystic connection to the wilderness. I was excited to discover four years later that the band has continued to produce awesome music. Their latest offering, an EP called Wolf Motel, was released earlier this month. It’s full of songs that would be perfect to listen to while driving through the desert at sunset with the windows down. There’s a windswept gloriousness to it along with the bittersweet taste of a breakup. 

Fronted by Taylor Dupuis (vocals/acoustic/songwriter) and Joey Beesley (vocals/electric guitar/songwriter), with Richard Bennett on bass, B.L. Reed on electric guitar, and Chris Elvidge on drums, Roanoke states that they have a “70s/80s aesthetic with modern sensibility by delving into a mystic rock core” and they’ve been performing for eight years together. Fans of Fleetwood Mac and Creedence Clearwater Revival will love Wolf Motel – it has the same retro vibe, with pleasing harmonies reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and the wild country-western riffs and witchy atmosphere of CCR songs like “Bad Moon Rising.” 

In a revealing Instagram video, Roanoke’s Dupuis and Beesley told viewers that the EP was inspired by their breakup, seemingly to each other, with more details to come. This seems very similar to the drama that took place when Fleetwood Mac made the iconic album Rumours; each member of the band went through a breakup during recording (including Buckingham and Nicks). Both Rumours and Wolf Motel have lassoed the intense emotions from the end of a romance and rounded them up into stellar album-making. Dupuis said that “the breakup made the album stronger” and she’s absolutely right. The “heaviness” of the honest feelings makes the lyrics and music relatable to anyone who has gone through heartbreak. And even though there’s an inherent and wistful sadness stringing its way through the songs, there’s also moments of joy breaking through it and still plenty of rocking out. 

The first song on the EP “If You’re Gonna Leave” is the breakout track from this record. With soaring harmonies and electrifying guitar playing, this is a pleasing country-rock melody that will stay in your head long after hearing it. The harmonies between the two lead vocalists, Dupuis and Beesley, are especially powerful and gorgeous. The message is both romantic and heart wrenching – it captures the duality of both wanting to be with someone everywhere they go, but knowing that the relationship has to inevitably end when they eventually leave. The lyrics feel straight out of Buckingham and Nicks’ notebook, but they put their own original Americana spin on the breakup concept. This is one that will go in your “Best of 2022” playlists. 

“After I Go,” the second song on the record, is also breathtaking. A little slower and calmer than “If You’re Gonna Leave,” this song finds Dupuis begging for the couple’s love for each other to stay unchanged despite the romance ending. Beesley has the mystical and beautiful ‘70s vocalism of Steve Nicks, but also a powerhouse range similar to Brandi Carlile, especially in her Americana inspiration. She can sing sweetly in a way that is like the wind whispering through the trees, but her voice also cuts through everything so clearly and strongly; she’s an undeniable star-in-the-making. She would sound incredible collaborating with the likes of Carlile or Kacey Musgraves. 

The two middle songs “So Young” and “Reckoning” are also great rock ballads. “So Young” captures the naïve desire to be with someone because of the way it makes you feel younger. There’s a great break in the middle of the track that shows off the electric guitar and melodic piano. “Reckoning” is a slower build that revs up into a powerhouse of a song. There’s great moments where the rock instrumentation really gets to shine, but it’s all secondary to Beesley’s mesmerizing voice, which takes the lead here. This one’s about the anxiety of not knowing how you’re supposed to be or feel after a personal reckoning, and trying to work through that. 

The final song on the EP “Walk On By” is a track to jam and rock out to, as Beesley sings that this is the opportunity to “dance under the moon.” In a witchy, Florench Welch-like way she has “put a spell on you.” The band goes to the max on this track and this one is sure to get you out of your chair to boogie. Lyrically, this song is a desperate and passionate plea to allow someone to “let you love them.” At the very end, one of the band members says that “the tambourine broke” showing just how hard the band played during the recording. 

All in all, Wolf Motel is an enchanting, nostalgic, heart-wrenching, magical listening experience that is perfect for a road trip through the wilderness, or simply to jam out to while at home. Like Rumours, it’s a great breakup record, but more than that, it’s an excellent all-around listen for anytime and for anyone. Fans of Fleetwood Mac and Creedence Clearwater Revival will enjoy its 70s rock-n-roll style and Brandi Carlile fans will likewise love its Americana roots. I personally can’t wait to see the band play these songs live, hopefully sometime in the future (a tour has not been announced yet). 

Wolf Motel is available to listen to on all major music streaming platforms (like Spotify) and to purchase on iTunes, with hopefully a CD and vinyl release in the future. Folks can also follow Roanoke via their website here, via Instagram here, or via Tik Tok here.

-CN

Cat Nuwer is a music critic and publicist with Heavy Metal Magazine and Storm King Comics and one of our biggest heroes. Thank you so much to her for writing this wonderful piece and for allowing us to post it here! Please follow Cat on Instagram @Cnuwer!

Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and Thewaster.com and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

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