Discovery: Twilight Hotel’s “Mahogany Veneer”
Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury are the core duo of Twilight Hotel, an Austin-based group, originally from Winnipeg, that’s been around for some 8 years, releasing records that have found notice in their native Canada; elsewhere not so much. Zdan and Quanbury (you can see why they opted for the name Twilight Hotel) released their third album, When the Wolves Go Blind, this year, a record cut in the Kingsize studios in L.A., with assistance from engineer John Whynot (Lucinda Williams and Blue Rodeo) and Tom Waits’ drummer, Stephen Hodges.
“Mahogany Veneer” is a song from that album. It begins with a deep breath and a pathetic fallacy:
I met you in the forest
where the Borealis shine
And every fish in that old lake
could tell that you were mine
The singer can’t be serious, or can’t expect the listener to take him seriously. And then the song unfolds, the melody refracts a hundred songs you’ve heard before but can’t name, driven by couplets that deepen along the way.
The lovers light out together, why we don’t know, but the journey leads from Manitoba to New York to Memphis to New Orleans, following the river. The old life falls away “like mahogany veneer.”
When we got to New Orleans
We found a city on its knees
homes hung with shadows
streets lined with weeds
By the end of the song and the journey, the two have seen enough. They hear about suicide and attend a funeral and witness homes burning in Nashville. It’s an elliptical sojourn, the kind only two young romantics can take, and they convey that uncanny feeling of being haunted together and finding purpose in those feelings. The low guitar notes echo, the light percussion marches along, and the song ends.
Radio was static
moon was out of sight
I watched you sleep beside me
turned off the dashboard light
Twilight Hotel – Mahogany Veneer