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  • Ian Moore
  • Ian Moore
  • Ian Moore
  • Ian Moore

Ian Moore
BAND MEMBERS THE LOSSY COILS: Ian Moore, Matt Harris, Branden Harper, Greg Beshers
GENRE Alternative, Pop and Rock
RECORD LABEL Spark & Shine Records
SOUNDS LIKE Jeff Buckley, Nick Lowe, The Beatles, Big Star, Scott Walker
INFLUENCES 60's Rock, Power Pop, Brit Pop, Early Soul, Tin Pan Alley Writers, Psychedelia
El Sonido Nuevo, the new studio record from Austin-raised, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Ian Moore, his seventh, bridges the gap between the stylistic offshoots of his past few records and the guitar-slinging bravado that characterized his earlier, often bluesier, output. “The album is a retrenching in the face of a diffuse pop culture landscape,” says Moore. “Every band has ten members, every movie is a sequel, there are 500 channels and nothing’s on.”

That sentiment rings through loud and clear on opening track “Secondhand Store,” co-written like much of the album with bass player and confidant Matt Harris, who is also in power-pop stylists the Posies and the Bay Area noise pop act Oranger, and has played with Roky Erikson and Pavement’s Spiral Stairs. “We wrote it after SXSW when we were dealing with that onslaught of hipsters — everybody has an angle and nobody seems to be actually doing anything,” says Moore. “I also threw in the hipsters taking over the East Side of Austin. It’s a mish-mash of jaded feelings in a dark moment.”

That darkness is a presence on the record, but not an overpowering one. It’s reflected in songwriting that runs deeper than the often-shallow power pop genre. “Tap the Till” is characteristic of this approach: “Matt and I wanted to write that song as an answer to all the ‘girl’ songs — especially ‘Southern Girls’ by Cheap Trick,” explains Moore. “Everybody sort of wrote those songs as a nod to ‘California Girls’ — and I wanted to write that song about a specific girl. Although it didn’t really find a voice until I put it in a minor key.”

Moore has built a career following his artistic instincts, which hasn’t always worked from a business perspective. But his records are always driven by Moore’s uncompromising vision, informed by a broad knowledge of, and passion for, music history. Still, he’s been steadily accruing fans by staying on the road doing everything from solo acoustic shows to full band gigs in the U.S. and abroad. Moore’s skilled musicianship has been requested by many of his stylistic forefathers. Milestones include playing “Like a Rolling Stone” on the road with Bob Dylan, drinking wine and trading guitar riffs with Keith Richards on tour with the Rolling Stones, exchanging mix tapes with Paul Weller, performing “Whisky River” with Willie Nelson, singing a duet with Emmylou Harris, and backing artists as divergent as Roky Erikson and Jason Mraz.

The album hits its stride with three songs that embrace this stylistic diversity while firmly seated in Moore’s rootsy history. At times he plays with the authority and tone of David Gilmour, though Moore clearly has his own personal style and voice. “Birds of Prey” has the rich sonic rewards of the kind of song you play in the car with the radio blaring, while Moore describes the lyrics “are really about being peeled away like carrion — getting rid of all that fat. But it’s not a linear narrative; it’s a feeling.”

More topical are “Belle, My Butterfly” and “Hillary Step,” although the choruses on both are epic in scope and hard to resist. “‘Belle, My Butterfly’ is [heavyweight boxing champion] Jack Johnson speaking to Belle Schreiber after she turned state’s witness on him,” says Moore. “He’s talking about the betrayal, the feeling that they had something that was stronger than it appeared to be. The gist of the story behind the song is to think about a man like Jack Johnson and how deep seated the anger must be to be the greatest boxer in the world, and this vulnerability at his core that he builds a shell around.”

“‘Hillary Step’ started out about the story of Beck Weathers, who was left behind on Mt. Everest by his climbing partners, and managed to survive,” explains Moore. “I was really inspired about what he wrote, about that feeling of just letting go, and it evolved into this analogy about that final part of the ascent of Everest — the Hillary Step — and that moment when you are on the verge of pushing yourself to do something that’s serious and life changing and the bottleneck you have to get past.”

Moore’s band on the record was a purposeful step into stripping away artifice and décor. With the band pared back to a three-piece — Moore, Harris and drummer Kyle Schneider — the songs are simple and direct; previously Moore might have been inclined to layer sonics and complex arrangements, here the record is straightforward, the songs clean and without ornamentation. Moore returns to the boundaries of what he can do with six strings and his largely unsung, soulful voice.

Born in Berkeley, Moore grew up in Austin, Texas, and made his mark there in the early ’90s as a blues guitar virtuoso. Early sideman duty for Texas roots legend Joe Ely led to a 1993 self-titled solo record on Capricorn that propelled him to those critical opening gigs for the Stones and Dylan, as well as a notable appearance in Billy Bob Thornton’s indie hit Slingblade. Moore’s broad palette of influences and interests was further explored in the video for “Harlem,” directed by rapper and actor Ice Cube.

Critics have long loved Moore’s studio output: Dave Hickey in Art in America magazine called Moore’s Modernday Folklore “one of the best moments in contemporary art in 1996,” while Harp magazine observes, “Since the early ’90s the native Texan has refused corporate molding in favor of freedom and the artistic rewards are staggering.”
Moore’s 2004 release Luminaria received numerous accolades, including from Billboard’s Chris Morris, who noted, “The burden of the contemporary singer/ songwriter is in formulating a sound that is completely unique. With Luminaria, Ian Moore accomplishes just that.” And of his most recent release, 2007’s To Be Loved, All Music Guide wrote, “Moore has created a brand of challenging yet highly melodic new-millennium pop-rock that establishes him as an audacious songwriter and player. He has struck that rare balance between astute complexity and utter pop appeal.”

Moore has done hundreds of television appearances, from regional TV shows to the Today show and the Late Show With David Letterman to a one hour DIRECTV special, while avid watchers of American Idol have seen contestants cover Moore’s songs “Blue Sky” and “Satisfied.” And the Austin Music Awards have repeatedly voted him Best Singer, Musician and Band.

The manner in which Moore has moved across styles and cultural boundaries has rallied critics but, sometimes, confused his longtime fans. On El Sonido Nuevo, the blues and rock guitar he’s best known for is back, bolstered by confident songwriting and the absorbed echoes of those influences and stylistic adventures. Moore openly addresses his need to break out of a preconceived mold on the purposeful “Salt Mines” and the jaunty “Let Me Out.”

Moore and Harris specifically loop in some of their inspirations on the Love-influenced “Look Inside” and “Sad Affair,” a compelling reconstruction of Big Star’s “Holocaust.” “Was there ever a darker song recorded?” asks Moore of “Holocaust.” “Probably not, not in rock ’n’ roll.”

With El Sonido Nuevo, Moore’s musical journey bands together all these disparate influences with a confidence and, some would argue, a return to form on the guitar.

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