By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Acclaimed onetime Austin, TX-based songwriter and guitar slinger Ian Moore returns to his former Bay Area stomping grounds this week for several Bay Area shows promoting his forthcoming EP Toronto in Napa, Petaluma and San Francisco.
Born in Berkeley, Moore showed an early interest in music, picking the sitar as a precocious five year old and later studying violin before moving on to guitar as a teen. He absorbed a vast array of musical influences growing up with his itinerant family (his father was a linguistics and Eastern studies scholar) that at various times lived in California, Mexico and India before ending up in Austin.
Moore would study musicology at the University of Texas with an eye towards a career in journalism, but music began to dominate after he recorded and toured with Austin honky-tonk legend Joe Ely in 1992. Moore would establish a solid regional following with his own band soon afterwards, scoring a record deal with Capricorn and getting pegged as a possible heir apparent for the blues-guitar thrown of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn.
While his eponymous 1993 debut and the follow-up Modernday Folklore featured a mix of blazing guitar anthems and soulful vocals that lived up to that promise. The songs garnered plenty of Texas radio airplay and the guitarist found himself and his band opening for ZZ Top, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. But Moore didn’t see himself as just another entrant in the SRV sweepstakes. When he submitted songs for his third album that leaned towards a mix of power pop and roots rock, the band was dropped by the label and imploded shortly thereafter.
The change would prove liberating for Moore, as he went on to record for a variety of independent labels with a myriad of collaborators, touching on everything from Beatlesesque pop to gutsy garage psych to the kind of autumnal, country-tinged atmospheres favored by Daniel Lanois (he has also collaborated with the noted songwriter/producer). Having relocated to Seattle well over a decade ago (though he did reside in the Bay Area for a period of time in the mid-90s) Moore has made regular visits to San Francisco during his frequent tours up and down the West Coast including appearances at Hipnic, the series of outdoor weekend festivals in Big Sur curated and headlined by Mother Hips.
The musician got another round of solid reviews in 2016 with the EP The Nobel Art — a celebrated collection of soul covers including songs by Al Green and Solomon Burke. Last year, Moore released his most successful recording since his landmark debut with the eight-song EP Strange Days. Recorded in collaboration with such luminaries as Austin guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada (ex-Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, Echocentrics) and Oakland-based hip-hop producer Jim Greer (Rondo Brothers), the collection mixed the soul and funk influences (a version of the Aaron Neville nugget “Hercules” would have fit nicely on The Nobel Art) with elements of psychedelia, blues grit and ’60s British rock.
Moore swings back through the Bay Area this week for a trio of shows to preview his latest recording, the six-song EP Toronto slated for release on Last Chance Records in late May. Echoing the muscular power-pop of Cheap Trick and Big Star as well as the glam-tinged anthems of Queen and David Bowie, the swaggering hipster indictment “You Gotta Know” and propulsive rockers like “1000 Blackbirds” and “Rock N Roll” stand alongside some of the best work of Moore’s illustrious career. Fans of both crafty songwriting and fiery, blues-drenched guitar are advised to catch this criminally underrated performer when he rolls through the Bay Area on his way a homecoming stint at South By Southwest in Austin.
Wednesday, March 7, 8 p.m. $15-$35
Blue Note Napa
Thursday, March 8, 8 p.m. $10-$15
The Big Easy
Friday, March 9, 8 p.m. $12-$15
Brick and Mortar Music Hall