Dave Moore : Breaking Down To 3

Dave Moore Breaking Down To 3 cover

Dave Moore : Breaking Down To 3

(Red House Records, 1999)

To state that Iowa Singer/Songrwiter Dave Moore has kept a low profile would be something of an understatement and he certainly can’t be considered to be prolific when it comes to releasing records – 3 albums from 1984 to the present day isn’t a lot. Which is an absolute shame, if you ask me. I first became aware of Dave Moore watching the Greg Brown documentary Hacklebarney Tunes that, with its accompanying CD If I Had Known, acted as a catalyst for me to discover Bo Ramsey as well (see my review of his album Fragile here…), not to mention Red House Records, which Greg Brown founded in 1981 and which I only knew by name before.

 

Finding information about Dave Moore hasn’t been easy, he hasn’t even got a Wikipedia entry or example, so there was more or less only the short biography on him on the Red House Records website (http://www.redhouserecords.com/Moore.html). But fortunately there’s YouTube and there are quite a few videos of him playing in small Folk clubs, festivals etc. to be found.  You can also get all three of his albums over at Amazon (if, like me, you live in an area without any record stores you could hope to find albums like his). However, I liked what I heard on these clips immediately, they were mostly solo acoustic recordings as well as a few that show him accompanied by other musicians. I soon discovered that he is an extremely talented (mainly acoustic) guitar player and ace songwriter. He’s also playing harmonica and accordion (which he learned from TexMex/Norteno legend Fred Zimmerle).

The first thing I have to say about Breaking Down…  is that it sounds absolutely stunning. I have seldom heard an album produced, mixed and mastered as well as this, the sound is crystal clear and airy while at the same time substantial and muscular (in a stripped down way – no loud and hard electric guitar riffs or anything like that). You can hear each and every instrumental track recorded with stunning clarity and the same goes for his rich, full voice. But having bought a few other records released on Red House Records recently I am slowly beginning to suspect that their records are usually produced to a very high sound standard, which of course is a distinct plus for me, I am very fond of good-sounding records.

His music is Singer/Songwriter fare straight out of the American Heartland, with just the right influences from Folk to Blues, Roots and TexMex, (though the latter is mainly the case on the Over My Shoulder album and not really on here). His characteristic harmonica sound is employed to very fine effect throughout the album, especially on tracks such as Down To The River and Big Fool For You. Coupled with Ramsey’s (who also shares the production credits with Moore) amazing guitar work (if you read my review of his album Fragile or Pieta Brown’s Mercury you will now how much I am into his style of guitar playing), the combination of the two could be described as a match made in heaven.

On here it’s especially Sharks Don’t Sleep and Midnight on which Ramsey shines. As usual he’s supplying just the right amount of ambience through his understated but highly effective, soulful and bluesy lead guitar. Midnight for me is the best song on here hands down – the bass guitar is going way down, it sends chills straight to your bones and it’s got great harmonica work too.  The image I have got in my head whenever I listen to Midnight is that of standing next to the train tracks late at night and having a freight train rumbling by a few feet away.

The other musicians of the small band accompanying him on the album don’t disappoint either, even if they stay in the background somewhat by Moore and Ramsey. David Zollo’s piano is augmenting Big Fool For You rather nicely and the use of an acoustic stand-up bass, as is the case on some tracks, is always a plus in my book. In the laid-back Big Drafty House a man is reminiscing back on his life of 20 years ago and the area he lived in at that time, sentimental perhaps, but a nice image nevertheless.

On the ballad Painting This Room Ramsey plays (what I believe is) a National resonator guitar, unsurprisingly, that’s sounding fabulous. Next track Let’s Take Our Time And Do It Right is a good-natured blues shuffle. The saddest song on here is All the Time In The World, an intensely personal, gentle ballad about a father taking to his deceased daughter, so it sounds appropriately melancholic.

But he can do upbeat, easygoing Blues/Folk-Pop songs as well, as tracks such as Big Fool For You or Mr. Music prove. The aforementioned Sharks Don’t Sleep is another highlight on the album. I have listened to it many times and still can’t figure out what the lyrics are about, but never mind, the music is utterly captivating, a mid-tempo song with a rather restrained musical backing and a moody atmosphere, and that Bo Ramsey guitar…

Album closer Down To The River is an unashamedly romantic song about a man, his woman and a dog escaping city life in their cabin by the river with a suitable lovely tune and a simple yet graceful Folk-Pop arrangement.

One of the overlooked gems in the Singer/Songwriter field of the past 15 years, that’s for sure.

3 videos by Dave Moore

I am currently in the middle of writing reviews of two records by Iowa’s Dave Moore (not to be confused with the Texas Christian music bloke of the same name) to post them on here. In the meantime, here are three videos recorded back in 2006 at an outdoor Festival in Iowa City to give you a taste of his excellent work. Keep your eyes open for the reviews to follow in the next few days.

Sharks Don’t Sleep (originally from his 1999 album Breaking Down To 3)

Coralville (not available on record as far as I’m aware) but it’s a great, humorous Folk-Blues number

Down To The River (also from Breaking Down To 3)

Pieta Brown : Mercury

Pieta Brown Mercury Cover

Pieta Brown : Mercury

(2011 Red House Records)

 Pieta Brown is Greg Brown’s daughter and married to Bo Ramsey, a longtime musical partner of Greg Brown. So you could say the apple doesn’t fall far from the stem, listening to Mercury. It’s released on Red House Records, the label Greg Brown releases his albums on as well (and that he founded back in 1981) and does feature Bo Ramsey, who delivers his always outstanding and tasteful guitar work throughout the album. In contrast to Ramsey’s fine 2008 album Fragile (see my review here: http://wp.me/p3wknx-4t) he’s accompanied by another guitar player, Richard Bennett, on most/all tracks. Another (rather more prominent) guest on the album is The Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler who is playing another guitar on So Many Miles.

It’s the first album by Pieta Brown I bought (but it won’t be the last) – and I like it a lot. The sound is a bit more contemporary than on either Greg Brown’s or Bo Ramsey’s albums, but that’s of course completely natural, given she does belong to a different generation. It doesn’t mean though that she doesn’t sound like a young women very much informed by her upbringing and (thankfully) possessing none of the hip big city vibes you could expect.

The sound is both modern and rustic at the same time, her voice the most defining characteristic on the album, at once a bit childlike and clear as well as self-assured and a tad raspy, hard to describe for me, but easy to love.

Naturally for me, the tracks with the least musical accompaniment are the ones I like best, namely I Don’t Mind or No Words Now (which isn’t THAT stripped down, but extremely lovely nevertheless). The album starts with the life-affirming and up-tempo Be With You, the next track Butterfly Blues is a fine showcase for Bo Ramsey’s trademark economic, bluesy lead guitar work – but it’s more than that, as it’s also an excellent song. Title song Mercury and the following How Much Of my Love are some of the more dreamy songs very well suited to her voice. I’m Gone and I Want It Back are lyrically, and in the case of I’m Gone musically, some of the more muscular and self-confident songs, the first one a fast(ish) Blues-Rock song and the second a slow, gorgeous Blues-Pop-Waltz song with a lovely string accompaniment.

Night All Day is the only track I find quite hard to like, a bit too bluesy for my taste. Closing Time is somewhat disappointingly not the Tom Waits song (would have loved to hear what they could have made out of that) but it’s a splendid song nevertheless. I rather like Glory to Glory a lot too – its fun, with a number of varied guitar parts, one of it sounding slightly old-timey, and I love the simple drums/percussion work on it too.

Mercury is a brilliant album and Pieta Brown well above most the other female Country-Folk-Pop artists of her generation, both as a songwriter and as a singer if you ask me.

 

Slaid Cleaves : Rust Belt Fields

Ever the songwriter for thoughtful songs about people who possibly don’t quite get what they deserve, but try hard one way or the other nevertheless, Slaid Cleaves has written yet another of his beautiful, melancholic songs.

It also shows that , even in 2011 (or 2013 for that matter), you don’t need anything else than an acoustic guitar if your songs are good.

John Prine : Souvenirs

JP_Souvenirs

 

John Prine : Souvenirs

(2000, Oh Boy Records)

 ‘Fifteen new recordings of classic songs’ – that’s what the front cover states, so far, so good. What it doesn’t say is how excellent these new versions are.

Recorded in ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement’s The Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa in Nashville the sound is excellent. What we get is mainly John Prine and his finger-picked acoustic guitar at his best, augmented by a select cast of uniformly accomplished musicians (just listen to Angel from Montgomery) on the usual instruments in that Singer-Songwriter/Folk/Country context (electric guitars, bass, mandolin, fiddle and accordion and so on). All very well and nice to have, but that wouldn’t count for much, wouldn’t he write such damn good songs. I don’t own all of his records (yet) so I can’t say which songs he left out I would have loved to have on here as well – apart from one and that is Daddy’s Little Pumpkin (from The Missing Years), given that that version is already so perfect maybe it’s better it isn’t done here again. As far as I’m aware, it’s note one of his most popular songs, but it is my favorite.

The album starts with Souvenirs (from Diamonds in the Rough), setting the course of the album nicely, his gravelly voice, a lovely acoustic guitar only backed by an electric guitar and a little bit of bass and mandolin – the sound as pure and clear as a fine winter morning. Next song Fish And Whistle (from his 1978 album Bruised Orange) features some fine accordion backing, and is one of the more Country-influenced songs on Souvenirs (together with Grandpa Was A Carpenter and Please Don’t Bury Me).

Far From Me (from the first, self titled album) which was also recorded by Justin Townes Earle on Broken Hearts And Dirty Windows in a mighty fine version, but the version on here is far more melancholic, which suites the lyrics of the theme better. It’s about a couple going through something of a rough patch (‘…. Well. Ya know, she still laughs with me But she waits just a second too long…’), but the way the song is set (with him picking her, a waitress, up at the end of her shift) is one of the best examples of Prine’s songwriting capabilities – it just begs to be given a cinematic treatment, at least I can imagine a short film/music video version perfectly well. Next track Angel From Montgomery, which I was familiar with from a radically different, but excellent version by Canadian outfit The Leslie Spit Treeo (anybody remember then?), is a slow ballad, augmented by the lovely interplay between pedal steel guitar and mandolin.

The following Donald & Lydia is another prime example of why Prine is regarded so highly as a songwriter, the lyrics mirroring American small-town life perfectly, it’s about a would-be couple that tragically never meet in real life although they only live a few miles apart and are both dreaming about finding love (‘They made love in the mountains They made love in the streams They made love in the valleys They made love in their dreams But when they were finished there was nothing to say ‘cause mostly they made love from ten miles away’) – how touching is that?

Grandpa Was A Carpenter is an old-timey Country tune with a prominent fiddle and suitably rustic, old-style lyrics (‘Well he used to sing me ‘Blood On the Saddle’ And rock me on his knee And let me listen to the radio Before we got T.V. Well, he’s drive to church on Sundays And he’d take me with him too Stained glass in every window Hearing aids in every pew…’) – proving that he can do both sad, melancholic and upbeat, good-natured songs equally well.

The Late John Garfield Blues is another highlight for me – slow, quite melancholic and with a lovely tune, one of his finest songs if you ask me.

But it’s next song Blue Umbrella, which I probably love best on here – just John Prine, his voice and a picked acoustic guitar – actually pretty much the only things he needs to sing his songs write into my heart.

Six O’Clock News is one of the saddest songs on here, telling the sad story (‘… The Whole town saw Jimmy On the six o’clock news His brains were on the sidewalk And Blood Was on his shoes…’) of young James Lewis, son of Wanda, and it’s also one of the loveliest arranged one, I very much like the interplay between the electric lead guitar, accordion and piano.

Well, what’s to say about Sam Stone? Another, and probably, if I am informed correctly, one of his best known songs (covered by the likes of Johnny Cash) about a war veteran (most probably from the Vietnam war), coming home with military accolades, but also an addiction to morphine which ends with his overdose – not very surprising it was/is so popular in the US, very sad indeed – I am especially moved by the line (‘… While the kids ran around wearing other People’s clothes…’), a great song, that.

Next to last song Please Don’t Bury me is another slightly faster and good-natured song with a ueber-catchy chorus. I have to admit that I actually like the version on his first album of album closer Hello In There a tad better – an excellent song and the lyrics are a very good example of his maturity in both outlook on life and as a songwriter, even at an early stage in his career (he was only in his mid-twenties when that album was released in 1971).

A lot of catching up for me left to do I guess, when it comes to his work, as I only own this album, The Missing Years and the first album so far.