Album Review – Dallas Moore’s “Tryin’ To Be a Blessing”

photo: Leslie Campbell

Dallas Moore is about the last guy you’d ever have to worry about pulling a country music Benedict Arnold on you. He would choose death before coming out on stage gesticulating to a tractor rap beat, or turning his twang in for the dulcet tones of “Americana.” Who should be worried are the Benedict Arnold’s of country music in the company of Dallas Moore and his musical cohorts in a dark alley. He’s the kind of country music Outlaw many want to imitate, but few have the fortitude to emulate. To be Dallas Moore, you have to do with less to follow a dream no matter how bleak the prospects are in this screwey time in country music, and keep the music true to its roots no matter what the cost.

Dallas Moore has built a strong following from hitting the road hard and heavy, and being one of those guys who hangs with you and your buddies after the show. He’s the consummate road dog and honky tonker, and draws loyal crowds across the country from the good time you’re virtually guaranteed to have at one of his appearances. But he’s not necessarily regarded as top-shelf songwriter in the same vein of someone like Cody Jinks or Jason Eady in the hard country space, while some of his earlier records left some to be desired when it came to the production.

His latest album Tryin’ to Be a Blessing continues to buck that trend, and possibly presents the best introduction to Dallas, and the best effort of his career. By writing some songs that see Dallas really trying to stretch his limits and find his voice, selecting a few savvy covers that really highlight what Dallas Moore does best, and working with producer Dean Miller who’s starting to emerge as the authoritative producer in the traditional country realm, it makes for a record worthy of recurrent spins.

Just like all the actual Outlaws of country music, the hard exterior of Dallas Moore gives way to more sentimental and introspective moments in the music itself. This record doesn’t find Dallas self-affirming what a badass and belligerent drunk he is like some of the blowhard “Outlaw” performers who only have a surface understanding of what the careers of Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe were all about. Most of the songs on Tryin’ to Be a Blessing are about the love Dallas has for his wife, and how he’s working to be a better person, despite the demons and shortcomings of his Outlaw nature. “You Saved Me From Me” and “Everything But You” are some of the best songs Dallas has ever written, and set the underlying theme for this record.

But don’t think all of that gets in the way of Dallas Moore having a damn good time. “Mama & Daddy” may draw on the often-used country music trope of the saintly matriarch and sinning husband, but it sure is a fun listen. So is Moore’s cover of the well-written and tongue twisting old Hoyt Axton tune “Della and the Dealer.” Dallas’s cover of the old CCR tune “Lodi” also does the listener good.

And everything on this record is enhanced darn near perfectly by the instrumentation, arrangement, and approach. The players all deserve their due, and so does Dean Miller who does such a great job directing traffic, and really understanding how to bring the magic out of each Dallas Moore tune. The son of country legend Roger Miller really helps emphasize what’s unique and important about Dallas Moore that got lost in some of his early recordings. And Dean Miller has been doing this a lot lately, including on the recent Georgette Jones release Skin, and he helped Dallas turn a page in his career by producing his 2018 album Mr. Honky Tonk.

Dallas Moore is still not likely to win any songwriter contests, but many award-winning songwriters can’t bring the type of edge and the guts that Dallas Moore brings to a song. Working with Dean Miller to emphasize what he does best, and bringing the best out of himself and maturing when it comes to composition, Dallas Moore has gone from a guy looking to walk in the footsteps of country music heroes, to making some footprints of his own.

1 1/2 Guns Up

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