Ian Moore brings his Cali-Austin-Seattle blues to Sacramento
“The child is father to the man. / How can he be? The words are wild. / Suck any sense from that who can: / ‘The child is father to the man.’” As common sense as these lines from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem are, they ring truer after talking with singer-songwriter Ian Moore.
The Berkeley-born, Austin, Texas-raised Moore believes his bold, reflective life is a direct result of his father’s fascinating vision. “Luminaria, my album, is dedicated to my father,” Moore explained. “He was a social ethnographer. We lived in India. He studied particularly Sanskrit, Hindi, Buddhism and Taoism. An amazing man, very brave in the way that he lived, very intellectual, very soulful. He told me a group is defined by its weakest link. He believed in the power of the individual. That is pretty much breeding ground for an artist. It is no wonder that I do what I do, following in his footsteps.”
Moore began his evolving odyssey as a child violinist before becoming the young Austin guitar slinger who was handpicked by Joe Ely during the 1980s. His 1992 Capricorn Records debut launched his rise as a compelling, atmospheric singer and player. When tides pulled on him more than the blistering Texas heat, he headed north. In 1998, Seattle became home. “There are thick, unbroken clouds there. Beautiful Audubon skies emerge; there is a sense of mystery and longing there that’s very romantic. I love it for writing,” Moore said.
Moore loves punk and psychedelia and bemoans the death of the underground Austin culture, but he also studied it, much like his father studied Indian culture. “I love blues and soul music. It is probably my fave, but as far as the culture around it, it had dissipated, become perverted,” Moore said.
“When I was a kid,” he continued, “blues music was very similar to punk rock in its integrity. It was tied into a kind of a beautiful thrift-store culture—finding the obscure covers, the LPs. Over time, it became less of a scene and became just a way for bars to fill their clubs. Fans got so strung out on guitar solos! Blues was never about guitar solos—it was about songs.”
Moore feels that kids who drifted into other forms of underground music—punk rock and later indie rock—would have been blues fans if that music had maintained its integrity. “But it lost them,” Moore explained. “When someone shits on the legacy, older people who have lived longer might be more willing to forgive that, but a young kid who is all about believing that their artists bleed for the music, he is just going to turn and find somebody that does.”
Touring the world with Ely and the modern songwriters, like Lucinda Williams, who played support, reinforced Moore’s love of serving the song, not the solo. It is eye-opening to feel the breadth of influences and references Moore’s music recalls. Of course he evokes the Beatles and Brian Wilson, but there also are shades of Ray Davies, Jeff Buckley and Richard Thompson, Cole Porter, Spiritualized, Ella Fitzgerald, Daniel Lanois, Stevie Wonder, and Santo and Johnny.
On this tour, Moore will be singing, and playing acoustic guitar and a big kick drum. Kullen Fuchs will operate the vibraphone, a piano, a very old World War II-era trumpet and Moog pedals. “We are maximizing every appendage we have, unless we can get our genitalia to play something,” Moore mused.
Moore’s old friend Kevin Seconds is opening the show. It’s another True Love in Exile event, this time at Curtis Park’s favorite hangout, Cafe Melange. “The True Love was such a great place,” Moore recalled. “So hip—a really unusual cross section of counterculture and a cross-generational thing. The True Love and Sacramento remind me a lot of how Austin used to be.”