By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Singer-songwriter Ian Moore
has mastered both electric and acoustic
guitars, but his first instrument was
a violin at age 6.

March 25, 2004

For singer-songwriter Ian Moore, it was never about being a guitar-slinger. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Moore made his musical bones as lead guitarist in the band of country rocker and fellow Texan Joe Ely in the early '90s and was signed to Capricorn Records - the early home of the Allman Brothers Band, among several Southern-rock acts that featured hot guitarists. And the label did its best to fit Moore for that image.

So it may come as a surprise to some fans who check out Moore on Friday night at Off Broadway that he has evolved into a solo singer-songwriter whose sound depends as much on electronic effects as on guitar - an acoustic guitar.

"That guitar-hero label got slapped pretty heavily on us by Capricorn. It was ridiculous," he says, reached last week via a balky cell-phone connection en route through the desert from Phoenix to El Paso, Texas.

Early albums such as "Ian Moore" and "Modernday Folklore" kept him in that mold, and opening gigs for the Rolling Stones and ZZ Top, among others, enforced that image. But the folk and pop influences apparent on "Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass" (1999) signaled that his transformation was well under way.

"The acoustic guitar forced the issue," he says. "(Acceptance by fans) has been surprisingly easy. We're not quite as big as when I had radio play but, in a lot of towns we play, like Phoenix and LA, the fan base is as big as it ever was. It's not like we took a huge dive into nothingness."

Indeed, Moore has remained busy, touring behind a live CD of full-band performances, "Via Satellite" (2001), and a new solo performance DVD, "Live From the Cactus Café" (2003). The DVD, a snapshot of where he is now, features Moore on acoustic guitar and accompanist Chris Dye on an instrument called an Omnichord and other electronic devices.

"It makes certain songs sound pretty gothic," says Moore, 35, whose first musical instrument was a violin at age 6.

While on the road, Moore and Dye are recording their next CD, "Luminaria," a studio version of some of the songs on the DVD. And that reference to on the road is literal: The CD is being recorded on computers, using portable recording, editing and mixing equipment.

"We worked on it in Austin for about five days with some friends (befor e the tour began)," Moore says. "We brought in Chris' computer and my rig and threw it up in the back room of the house. Then we took it on road. We've worked at friends' apartments, at a college radio station in Tucson (Ariz.), and we've done a lot of editing while driving between shows.

"The cool thing about digital technology is that it's given us a bunch of tools and made it easier to work on a professional level. Ten years ago, this was not available. It allows people to have independence creatively."

Technology is also giving his out-of-print albums an opportunity to be heard. Koch Records, his old label, has made "And All the Colors" (2000) and "Green Grass" available for download on eMusic, a legal MP3 subscription service, and Moore is weighing wider digital distribution of his work.

"Our first records on Capricorn sold really well, but I never made a penny," he says when asked whether he'll see any of the eMusic profits.

"So my opinion is, I'd prefer they pay me, but when it comes to push or shove, I'd rather people hear the music than not hear the music."

Moore is conflicted over illegal file trading: He's concerned about being able to make a living, yet almost gleeful that the big record labels are being stung.

"I just find it ironic," he says. "This happened because consumers got tired of being ripped off. I love seeing the big companies - because I know how corrupt they are - I like seeing them scramble. And I like that people are inspired to find their own music.

"It's really a beautiful period of time, when I, like a lot of people, have found a lot of new bands."