This one may be cause to revise my best of 2004 list. Ian Moore is a hotshot Texas blues-rock guitarist (now based in Seattle) and former Joe Ely sideman now transitioning to a second career as a soulful singer/songwriter. Luminaria has a bit of the blues, but a lot of country, pop, gospel and other sounds as well. It’s not guitar fireworks that impress here, but Moore’s versatile voice, the intimate yet majestic songscapes and his intriguing southern gothic lyrics.
Moore’s vocal and emotional range is evident on the first track, the evocative “What I’ve Done.” “And the road is a black ribbon/Through a pretty woman’s hair,” he sings. “Caroline” is an atmospheric piece that unexpectedly shifts into an upbeat break section and showcases a glorious falsetto over the course of seven minutes. Moore’s tenor is capable of a low Grant Lee Phillips-like rumble (as on “New Day”), but can also ascend and descend with the ease of Jeff Buckley (the spooky, slippery “Cinnamon”). “So your body is blushing like blood from a rose/It’s zipless and perfect like obsidian stone,” he sings on the latter.
A trio of songs form the heart of the record: “April,” with its catchy, easygoing chorus, the accordion-tinged “Kangaroo Lake” and the noir-ish, Chris Isaak-like “Abilene.” There’s also a little rapid-fire cowpunk on “Bastards” (he sounds a bit like Mick Jagger or perhaps Karl Wallinger of World Party here) and the more understated cello and trumpet shaded love song “Susan.” Oh yeah, and there’s a soaring pop song about the polar explorer Sir Robert Scott.
Luminaria is a record full of rich textures, emotionally resonant words and wonderful performances. Moore has left the blues behind in style, but the spirit of the blues elevates and informs these tales of rainy late night drives, changing times and lonely desolation. I get the feeling this record will be a favorite for a long time.