MR. MISUNDERSTOOD • Scott E. Moore
It is easily understandable how Scott E. Moore might arrive at the title of Mr. Misunderstood. Start with the name: a sly reference to the Memphis picker who accompanied the King, and helped invent the art of rock & roll guitar in the process. This Moore is no mean guitarist himself, but restricts his guitar pyrotechnics to the soulful fills and tasteful solos that accompany his own singing and songwriting.
And what singing and songwriting--Moore's Memphis connection extends further than a moniker. Tunes like "Back Downtown" and "Don't Lead Me On" offer slinky grooves that, in their own semi-acoustic fashion, recall Willie Mitchell's arrangements at Hi Records for artists like Al Green and Ann Peebles. Moore's whispered croon, too, is as much Al Green as John Mayer.
The laid back country soul sound of "Tonight Is Everything We Need" or "Hey, Little Max" might lead you to another misunderstanding: i.e. that Scott is from the South. New Jersey born and bred, he merely shares with the best Southern songwriters--like Dan Penn and Tony Joe White--a knack for keen observations about life and love, as well as a talent for writing lyrics that help drive the song rhythmically.
Understanding comes into focus in tunes like "Where You Been," an ode to an absent father that tugs the heartstrings without self-pity; "Amsterdam," a dark song about a sex change that gives a whole new meaning to the line, "There comes a time to be a man"; and "Bye, Bye Frankie," a tribute to fellow son of the Garden State, Frank Sinatra. These tunes hone in on Moore's knack for combining Northern edge with Southern grease in an unbeatable combination.
Having heard about Scott E. for a year or so, I finally went to see him at a tiny club in New York. It was all there in just his guitar and voice: the deep grooves, the beautiful yet simple chord changes, the emotional commitment, and unforgettable lines like, "I think I'm gonna lose this bout / Just like this 3-buck umbrella I keep turning inside out." The record just confirmed what the live performance promised. It is time for Scott E. Moore to stop being Mr. Misunderstood and start being Mr. Appreciated. • Michael Ross