Playbill

There was a day when MTV's Unplugged segments were actually worth waiting for through the myriad of ads for pimple cream and shampoo. Yet in 2001, any young stud or studette with one cool rock song in their repertoire gets a shot at playing acoustic guitar. And hey, how about those a cappella segments featuring these all-boyz groups who normally dance and lip-sync to a recorded track (there's an oxymoron in there somewhere).

There was also a day, however, when former Austinite Ian Moore, a credible writer, performer and former blues-rock guitar geek, didn't do all that well in solo stints himself. Some nine years ago, when Moore was one of many aspiring targets of the exclusive Second Coming of Stevie Ray Sighting Society, his occasional solo stint was all bluster and bravado and pretty short on substance. He could pound the heck out of his acoustic, break a string or two along the way, and tried to produce the same one-dimensional white-boy-has-soul vocal effect that he used with his rock band.

But as he got older and gleaned wisdom from all kinds of acoustic guitar players around Austin while honing his songwriting craft, Moore began writing more soulful, eclectic material. These new songs were conceived by ideas that inspired lyrics, rather than macho riffs that spawned entire songs. As he told the Houston Press when he first made his decision to push the Texas guitarslinger image aside for good and started thinking about moving away from Austin, he wanted his legacy to be more like, say, a Ry Cooder than a Hendrix wanna-be. It was here that Moore's ability to perform, not just play, as a solo artist took root.

Of course, several other factors contributed along the way, including his very nasty split with Capricorn Records after the phrase "I just don't hear a single" was repeated to him for the millionth, and final, time. Freed to follow his muse, Moore's release in 1998 of the self-produced, self-indulgent Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass, his first acoustically driven record, gave him some interesting solo material to work with. More important, his vocal maturation and ability to add more depth to his falsetto put him back in the groove.

Though his latest record, Via Satellite, recorded live at H-town's Fabulous Satellite Lounge, is pretty much a full-throttle effort, the simple fact that Moore sounds way more convincing allows the listener to make a real connection between a rocker going balls-out on stage backed by a kick-ass band, and a guy alone on stage with a guitar. You can't be great at one without being at least good at the other.

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Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr