You’ve never heard of Daniel Martin Moore, from Cold Spring, Kentucky. That’s okay. Before we got his unsolicited demo in January 2007, neither had we. Luckily, he’d heard of us, and contacted us the way people in Cold Spring still do—he sent us a package, just to see what would happen. In all honesty, his odds were quite slim, but occasionally we’ll take down that “no solicitation” sign on our door. Eventually, we opened his package and gave his four songs a listen and decided to contact him—we happened upon Daniel while he was working at a friend’s bed and breakfast in Costa Rica. He’d been a bit of a drifter up until this point, studied photography in college, joined the Peace Corps in 2006, traveling to Cameroon for his service. What was supposed to be a two year commitment was cut short due to illness. So he came back to the states, lived in Minnesota for a while with his brother (who plays piano on several tracks), and began to focus on music.
The first thing you’ll notice about his debut, Stray Age is its simplicity. It’s a folk record, evoking certain feelings (as all good records should), but there’s a gentle approach to its sound and the way Moore’s voice phrases his words. Stray Age was recorded in Los Angeles in three different spurts, the first two sessions taking place in October and December of 2007, then the third in February of 2008. He even got some people you’ve heard of to help him out. Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, U2, The White Stripes) took on co-production, recording and mixing duties. Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Tori Amos) played upright bass. Jesca Hoop lent her voice to “The Old Measure” and “Restoration Sketches.” And Petra Haden (Bill Frisell, Beck) adds violin to “It’s You,” “The Hour Of Sleep,” and “The Old Measure.”
Those reference points are really just that, though. Moore is most captivating as a singer, one who doesn’t seem concerned with usual folkie fodder. If you ask him what his music’s about—a legitimate question—he just politely shrugs his shoulders in a way that says, “that’s up to you to figure out.” But, the insights in Stray Age are not secrets and would never hope to be. That’s a good thing, as Moore’s much more of an optimist, hopefully anticipating the things that are just around the corner. “That’ll Be The Plan” strums along to a soft drumbeat, a traveling narrative centered around delicate mandolin solos. The one cover on the album, “Who Knows Where The Times Goes,” has Moore slowly, softly singing Sandy Denny, coupling his gentle coaxing with a faint vibraphone.
Yet as simply as Daniel Martin Moore thinks of Stray Age, it’s rich with understated complexities that take you to places that people like Nick Drake and Mojave 3/Slowdive principal Neil Halstead have been cited as doing. There’s a soft swing in the vocals reminiscent of Chet Baker. But the one thing with Moore, that we like to think of as separating him from the pack, is he’s looking forward. He wants to go places, he wants you to come with him, and we’re finding him right in that moment.
Stray Age is a work that welcomes a listener to know it. This is Daniel Martin Moore. He comes from a place both geographically and personally removed from any sense of the independent music scene. Clearly, that’s okay.