Now this is what I’m talking about.
I’ve been wanting to tug on the sainted Saving Country Music reader’s ear about Moot Davis for years, and who knows what all kinds of dumb excuses have conspired up to this point to not allow that to happen. But the release of his latest Goin’ In Hot is just about the perfect damn opportunity if there ever was one to stop everything else down and sing the praises of this man’s superlative country music contributions.
Despite his name lending naturally to that “I’ve heard that name before” clichÃ©, it’s confounding why Moot isn’t much better known within the ranks of classic country and neotraditional fans. Maybe it’s because he’s terrible at promoting himself or playing that whole social network game, or because he’s nestled way up there in New Jersey these days, out of the earshot of country music’s well-established shipping channels. But I’ll be damned if this guy can’t go hard on the twang as much as anyone, and gets the true spirit behind country songwriting better than most.
Moot has put out one good country music project after another, but we better count ourselves lucky as hell we even get to listen to Goin’ In Hot. In June of 2013 the studio in Nashville where the album was recorded went up in flames, and the fear was everything was lost. The whole thing was already in the can, mixed, and ready to go when a blaze gutted the control room of guitarist Joe McMahan’s home studio. Miraculously, the hard drive from McMahan’s scoarched and water-soaked computer was salvaged and somehow the master files for Goin’ In Hot survived. Now if that isn’t one hell of a baptismal for your record, I don’t know what is.
What got me especially worked up about this release was the Gram Parsons-esque cover and the communication ahead of the album that it had some inspiration from the Stones’ Keith Richards. That whole needle & spoon era and the sweat captured on those recordings is something many bands strive for and very few perfect, and that dirty, loose sound is something missing in country today. With songs like “Just Left Home” and “Made For Blood”, Moot does his best to recapture that magic while not just trying to be interpretive, but let the inspirations flow through his own music and style.
Still at its heart Goin’ In Hot is a country music record and covers tremendous ground in both style and influence. From shit kickers like the rousing “Midnight Train” or the Yoakam-like “Love Hangover”, to more somber, singer-songwriter tracks like “The Reason” that very easily could have been written by Merle Haggard, Moot grabs the country-leaning listener by the scruff right off the bat and pulls you into this album; steel guitar moaning and squalling high in the mix like Ralph Mooney, “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart’s guitar player) playing producer and putting his proven country music touch all over this record, and the sweet and talented Nikki Lane lending her voice to the effort in spots. Along with Moot’s backing band, “The Good Americans” that includes Michael Massimino, drummer Joe Mekler and guitarist Bill Corvino, they make a record that is both timeless and relevant, and satiates all sectors of your salivating country music palette.
The way the tracks are ordered on Goin’ In Hot could have been handled a little better. After the first couple of songs, the whole Gram/Richards-inspired tracks are a little too front loaded, and if they’re not your speed, may act as a wormhole for your attention span. But the country tracks come hard and heavy later in the album, and the country/drug rock influences blend quite well in the album’s final offering, the fun and freaky “25 Lights”.
Moot Davis was once called “thinking man’s country” by NPR, and maybe because he’s known as a world traveler and runs in different circles than most independent country artists, he’s seen as some sort of upper crust crooner as opposed to an authentic country soul. But what Moot gets more than most is the simplicity of perspective inherent in good country music. Maybe that perspective is bred more from an intelligent ear than authentic personal experiences, or maybe it comes from both. Either way, Moot is able to communicate those depths of human emotion in a way that doesn’t usurp the joy from the music, making for an approach that feels fresh, yet familiar, and making it worthy of a wide audience.
Two guns up.
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