September 1999

Dave Moore - Breaking Down to 3
Red House Records RHR 132
HDCD encoded
Released: 1999

by Marc Rigrodsky

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

[Reviewed on CD]Dave Moore is a living anachronism. His is a world that no longer exists. He has no use for the suburbanized and sanitized America that the rest of us live in, a giant crowded highway lined end to end with WalMart and McDonald’s, broadcasting synthesized music to an increasingly vulgar and distracted audience. He is of an age when life was slower, folks knew each other, and decent, unpretentious music could be found just about anywhere.

Moore isn’t a dreamer. He knows what’s going down. Indeed, in Breaking Down to 3, his first album since 1990, he laments that "all the record deals and every little promo pack" drove away his beloved "Mr. Music," who is "never coming back." But back Moore comes anyway, with this collection of homey (as we used to understand the term), understated songs.

Moore’s emotions are muted, muffled, stowed in an open duffel bag under his bed, where they can be seen if you want to look closely enough. He observes, but doesn’t pretend that he knows what to do. "They got the radio waves, where the sharks don’t swim." True, but what of it? This is not the kind of music that ever got any airplay outside of public radio and college stations.

There’s no flash or techno-gloss in Dave Moore’s music. He and his four-piece band create simple, mostly acoustic, folk-blues with an occasional dash of Tex-Mex influence, all of which sounds as if they could have been recorded live in a living room. He blows some inspired harmonica that, along with some tasteful guitar leads and fills, keeps the music moving along in its slow-to-mid-tempo pace.

He’s not much of a singer, more of a talker: gruff, low, sounding at times like Jim Croce with a sore throat. His lyrics sometimes veer toward the trite, relying on images such as trains bearing down, big drafty houses, and going down to the river again. But his songs have a subtle charm, a genuine old-fashioned quality that is rarely heard anymore outside of museum recordings and folk festivals.

Breaking Down to 3 was produced by Bo Ramsey, who also played on several tracks on Lucinda Williams’ brilliant, bristly 1998 classic Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. But Ramsey has turned the emotional and musical fire way down for Dave Moore. Like Williams, Moore has his complaints and his share of sadness, but he’s much more even-tempered about them, keeping his voice and music plain and calm.

I’m glad that in a musical landscape dominated by gangsta rap, teen pop, and synthesized divas there are folks like Dave Moore still out there, unhurried, moving to the slow rhythms of country life. You’ll never hear his music being blasted out of a Jeep with tinted windows at 3 AM, and that’s a good thing. Still, I wish he’d let himself go a little more, let the pain and the anger out. He would be even more interesting if he did.