Playing a mix of country balladry, rockabilly, blues, and even Mexican conjunto, singer-songwriter Dave Moore has managed to impress the hard-core folkies even as he's gained a broader audience. Doubtless the genre-bending has helped distinguish him from the pack, but his real gift is the ability to evoke powerful emotions with graceful understatement--and it's as evident as ever on his recent Breaking Down to 3 (Red House), even though he's mothballed the button accordion and sticks to relatively straightforward guitar and harmonica. His "Painting This Room," with sweet-toned Dobro wafting through the background, is a tender meditation on new beginnings and our need to believe in them, and the rakish, playful "Let's Take Our Time and Do It Right" invokes the sanctuary of love, but darkness really brings out his best: on "Sharks Don't Sleep" he sounds like a flatland Springsteen channeling the spirit of Johnny Cash, and on "Midnight" his quivering croon is part death rattle, part terrified whimper as he warns, "They say one small moment can change the rest / It's like a letter never opened like a lump in the breast." Occasionally Moore strays from homage into imitation--"Magic Dust," for all its inventive wordplay, has half again too much Springsteen in it, and the bass line that propels "Mr. Music" might as well be from a Johnny Cash fakebook. But these moments are well worth tolerating for a tune like "All the Time in the World": written for his daughter who died in infancy, it easily could've sunk into bathos, but he delivers it with almost conversational offhandedness, blending grief and affirmation with spellbinding eloquence. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sandy Dyas.