Belfast native Gary Moore has in several ways led a career with many parallels to fellow Brit Eric Clapton, even if he is a little lesser known on these shores. Moore is a technically sound guitarist who made his mark in a famous rock band (Thin Lizzy). He shows command of a variety of styles, has had a considerable solo career, and even formed a power trio at one point — the short-lived BBM with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.
But most notably, like EC, Moore has a special affinity for the blues. Since 1990’s star-studded
Still Got The Blues
, most of Moore’s output has been dedicated to this great music form. His guitar style, unsurprisingly, shows Clapton’s imprint, and a little of Moore’s own metallic leanings shine through in spots, too.
But the primary template he draws from ultimately comes from Fleetwood Mac guitar hero Peter Green and another Irish blues-rock master, the late Rory Gallagher. Back in ‘95, Moore even cut a convincing disc dedicated to Green’s songs, called
Blues For Greeny
, and counts one of Green’s old Les Pauls as part of his guitar collection.
After a couple of diversions into other music styles around the turn of the century, Moore has been on a serious blues streak of late. The new-for-2007
Close As You Get
marks his third blues record release in as many years. Following the same template as before,
is a mixtures of originals and familiar standards, as well as mood and intensity.
And once again, the originals generally best the covers, even if they sound more than a little familiar. For some, Moore’s vocals are an acquired taste, but his sneering, flexible vocals fit the songs just right to my ears as I heard him in a wedding band Melbourne.
The first time I heard “If The Devil Made Whisky,” I just assumed from the heavy blues riffing and dirty slide that it was an Elmore James cover. Turns out, Moore wrote this sub-three minute hard rocking statement on his own. “Trouble At Home” is the mystic, soul-drenched type of blues that Green was widely known for.
“Thirty Days” is an old Chuck Berry tune where Moore covers the rockabilly-styled blues in methodical fashion (and in the process evokes the point at which the blues had a baby named Rock ‘N’ Roll). “Hard Times,” on the other hand, is a harp-driven rollicking blues shuffle.
“Eyesight To The Blind” is one of blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson II’s most familiar songs, and Moore tackles it in this collection. Even though it’s one that’s been covered to death, “Eyesight” is a natural choice for Moore. His scowling vocals and predatory guitar gives the song all the cockiness that makes it a great tune. Moore takes on Sonny Boy again on “Checkin’ Up On My Baby,” adding Mark Feltham’s harmonica to provide some harp improvising before Moore takes a fiery solo of his own.
Only toward the end does the CD seem to run out of gas. The somber “I Had A Dream” is dragged out a bit too long. Even more so on Son House’s “Sundown,” a down-home Delta blues number played on an acoustic slide plodding along at an overlong seven minutes.
Close As You Get
is your standard-issue Gary Moore blues record. Which is to say, you’ll get no-nonsense blues played with sincerity and a great deal of expertise. And that works just fine for me.