Randy Moore – HWY 59

URL: http://www.highway59records.com/home.html

Tennessee born singer/songwriter Randy Moore has been working in the world of popular music since the 1970’s and rubbed elbows with some of country music’s true artistic icons. His album HWY 59 makes it abundantly clear that those influences rubbed off on his own artistry in a significant and positive way. Moore is no imitator. The songs on his HWY 59 release are clearly informed by his influences, but Moore’s talent for filtering those influences through his own consciousness and experiences results in a collection of songs with rugged individualism and sure-footed musical skill. His songwriting and the unique turns of phrase inhabiting his work mark him as a veteran performer with talent to burn and an inspired eagerness to share his work with the widest possible audience. This isn’t niche entertainment designed to appeal to a certain crowd. Moore, as both a performer and songwriter, is accessible to the broadest possible audience and does so without ever pandering to listener’s expectations.

The album’s first single, “Sunshine State of Mind”, exists on the album in two forms – explicit and censored. The expletives are rather tame by today’s standards, but radio play remains an important component in the success or failure of country artists. The song begins with the plaintive whine of a steel guitar before settling into an easy going, quasi-Jimmy Buffet sort of groove and features a particularly strong chorus. The album’s nominal title cut, “Highway 59 Revisited”, is a fond reminiscence of Moore’s youth and the experiences of sharing moments with first loves, childhood friends, and how music played such an important role in shaping his memories and character. There’s some wonderfully free-flowing piano laced through the song, confident drumming, and tastefully played pedal steel. “Goin’ Back To Texas” opens with sparse musical accompaniment, an acoustic guitar and some unobtrusive pedal steel, before additional instruments come in. Moore excels at character driven songwriting and this is one of the best examples of that skill on HWY 59. There’s a light bluesy touch invigorating the tune thanks to the occasional lonesome harmonica wail that makes this all the more memorable.

“Roll Me Another One” has a stronger musical edge that some of the other songs thanks to more assertive electric guitar work and some solid organ work coloring in the edges. The slow, deliberate tempo is a perfect fit for Moore’s fantastic lyric that, instead of aiming for the lowest common denominator, turns this song title into a substantive piece of songwriting that says far more than just let’s party. The sweeping piano lines opening “Broken” herald the beginning of a fantastic ballad and it doesn’t disappoint. Empathy is the key building block to this track. Moore strongly identifies with the numerous characters he presents and this distinguishing feature of the song helps make it one of HWY 59’s most affecting numbers. This album is a powerful reminder about the impact high quality country music can have – there’s style, substance, and tremendous polish driving these tunes. Randy Moore’s album is something to value and cherish in these diminished musical times.

9 out of 10 stars

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Jason Hillenburg