Hunter Moore,
(self-produced, 2001)

In Conversations, Hunter Moore's third solo album, this experienced Nashville songwriter takes the ordinary interchanges between friends and lovers and turns them into song lyrics. The album was inspired by Robert Frost's poetry collection North of Boston, which features conversations on everyday subjects between rural people.

In many ways, the technique succeeds. Conversations is full of thoughtful and easygoing songs about human nature. However, there's a difference between an interesting conversation and a good song, and at times Moore's substantial gifts as a songwriter seem limited by the album's concept. Fortunately, Moore hasn't followed the concept slavishly (that is, some songs are more conversation-like than others) and on the whole the album is accessible and engaging.

Recorded in Nashville in November 2000, the album features Moore on vocals and rhythm guitar, Chris Donohue on bass, Steve Hindalong on percussion and Phil Madiera on guitars, mando-guitar and accordion. Jordan Richter recorded and mixed the album, which has a self-assured and polished sound.

Moore's songs have been recorded by Ricky Skaggs, Alabama, Kathy Mattea and others, and they reflect his strong ties to small-town Missouri where his family goes back seven generations. On this album he combines country-folk story songs about rural Southern life ("Billy's Hill," "Teresa of Carlston") with reflective songs on themes of growing older and marriage ("Conversation," "The Boys," "Wall). Also included is a lovely song called "When You Fall" that grapples with the meaning of life and comes out shining with uncharacteristically simple lyrics and a very pretty melody. It's a good example of a song that does not follow the conversational format and thus surpasses some others on the album in terms of universal appeal.

The other potential downside to an album that emphasizes everyday speech is that the lyrics will be emphasized at the expense of the melody. When the stories are genuinely fascinating, as they are in songs such as "Billy's Hill" and "The Road to Quang Tri" (a Viet Nam veteran's story), the high-quality lyrics make up for the understated melodies. Here's a line from the poignant "Wall": "...not that we don't have our disagreements, we sit in bed both facing the same way, and struggle with our feelings, try not to hurt each other, measuring each sentence that we say." As thoughtful and apt as lyrics like those are, at times I wished for stronger melodic hooks and choruses to really make me fall in love with those characters and stories.

Throughout the album, I enjoyed listening to Moore himself, who comes across as a friendly and warm-hearted person with his charming and accessible voice. I'm sure he's a wonderful conversationalist in person and probably is a terrific performer live. Without question, he's a faithful observer of all the small courageous details of life, which makes for fascinating listening.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 1 December 2001