Rosalee Motor Revival
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Rosalee Motor Revival


Band Pop Folk


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"Rosalee Motor Revival discovers a softer side"

It can be a good night when you come home from playing a show with a hoarse voice and ringing ears.

It can also be a good night when those people can hear what you’re singing.

Muscatine’s Rosalee Motor Revival and Burnt Ends singer John Watkins knows both sides of the coin and the softer side is more of his favor of late.

“I wanted to do something a little quieter, where I wasn’t screaming at the top of my lungs all the time and I wanted to do something that was more assessable,” he said. “I love playing with Burnt Ends, but it’s a different mood for each of the different bands. There’s the other half of me that loves whispering into a mike.

“The Rosalee songs are probably a little more personal than the Burnt Ends songs, not to say that those aren’t personal too, but these songs are a little more naked. Having to sing so loud all the time kind of took something away for me. This is just letting the vocals be spoken more. I like a lot of space in songs and I like having a band that’s not afraid to be quiet.”

Taming the natural urge to get louder and louder until everything bursts has resulted in a batch of modest songs with real hearts of gold that Watkins, guitarist/keyboardist MJ Dunlap, flute player/harmony singer Misty Wagler and bassist/banjo man Marc Showalter have collected for their debut full-length, “Tablespoon,” just back from the printing plant last Friday. The songs are full of dusty details and charming quirks, plus an endless supply of melody that Watkins chaperones with a versitile voice that travels from Royston Langdon of Spacehog to Gary Olson of The Ladybug Transistor and stomps around in graveyards and city parks it passes in between.

“I love to have the quiet,” Watkins said. “We started playing shows in the bookstore in town because we knew that there was no bar in town that would allow that music to be played. With this kind of music, it’s easier to just create a show as opposed to waiting for a hot spot bar to book you. You can play in attics and bookstores and art galleries. You can play anywhere.”

The stories coming out of Watkins — the stuff of a wandering and poetic mind with an addiction to the melancholy — have been his for a long time.

“I like story stuff,” he said. “That’s how I started, listening to Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen.

Watkins and Dunlap (also in Burnt Ends) began discussing the formation of this band last winter, with just a single practice under its belt. Now, the group’s got a short East Coast tour booked for the first two weeks of May and Watkins is optimistic that it’s just the beginning.

“I know how to be poor,” he said. “I would just like to have an act that’s able to leave the state of Iowa to play shows, not saying everyone in this band can do that, but we’re going to try.”

- Sean Moeller/Quad City Times

"Local Releases Bring Light to the Indie Scene"

Rosalee Motor Revival, Tablespoon. From Muscatine, Iowa, Rosalee Motor Revival emerged in 2006 with its charming brand of indie folk. Building upon influences such as Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith, lead singer John Watkins spins intimate tales about friendship, loss, addiction, and resolution. The tone of Tablespoon switches between cathartic and somber, playful and plucky, but Watkins' dynamic voice manages wistful, whimsical, and everything in between. From the cheerful kazoos on "Music Is Her Boyfriend" to the tearful cries on "China Boat," Tablespoon was a welcome release for local music fans eager for smart pop. - Culley Smith/River Cities Reader


Chicken Coop-2007



Rosalee Motor Revival plays bubble gum tunes so sweet you'd think they'd rot your teeth, that is, if you didn't listen to what was being sung. Watkins's songs' subject matter has always been laid out on the table making for heavy times, heavy times, but his plucky topics of meth addiction, suicide, dead parents and HIV seems to meet Dunlap, Showalter and Wagler's ambient, melodic and often times quirky instrumentation somewhere in the middle. The result is smart pop. The band's name is a memorial to Watkins's mother Rosalee who died of complications from bypass surgery in February of 2000. "She was my biggest fan", says Watkins of his mother, Rosalee. Rosalee Motor Revival released their first record, Tablespoon in the Spring of 2006 which was named one of the top local releases of 2006 by The River Cities Reader. 2007 will see the spring release of an EP entitled Chicken Coop, a compilation of demo songs and live performances and a full length album in late fall. The band makes their music from the small Mississippi River town, Muscatine, Iowa. They are currently performing in and around the Midwest.