Ian Moore made his name as a flashy blues guitarist for Joe Ely and other Texas artists, but he never plucked a solo Sunday night at Iota. Instead, the singer-songwriter was content to simply strum an acoustic guitar and sing his pop-blues compositions. It was the last night of a double-bill tour with headliner Jon Dee Graham, and Moore turned over the electric guitar parts to accompanist Chris Dye, who also provided harmonic atmospherics on lap steel guitar.
At first the show seemed like an odd pairing: Moore, a former Austinite, now living near Seattle, who writes dreamy melodies, and Austin alternative-country linchpin Graham, whose songs are nightmarish.
Moore's tunes built slowly, usually based on a wistful guitar riff and carried along by lyrics that clearly and concisely set a time and place before exploring the emotional aspects of whatever relationship he was singing about.
Before long the rhythms intensified, shifting up until he was strumming with thunderstorm frenzy, pushing the power of the tune across the room before returning to a quiet, contemplative resolution.
Moore's voice is nearly as distinctive as Graham's guttural growl, but in an opposite vein: Moore can swing his tender tenor to a near-falsetto on one word, as he did on Marianne Faithfull's 1965 pop hit, "As Tears Go By," performed as a down-tempo soul ballad with Graham on electric guitar.
As with the other songs that night, Moore lifted the poetry of the song out of the melody and exposed it anew.
-- Buzz McClain