Gary Moore

Old, New, Ballads, Blues

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Since the early '90s Belfast guitar whiz Gary Moore has returned again and again to the blues, leaving his metal phase far behind. Old New Ballads Blues is exactly what the title says it is, a mix of old blues (covers of songs by Elmore James, Willie Dixon, and Otis Rush), new blues (five Moore originals), ballads (half the album) and, well, blues (by one definition or another, everything here passes for blues). The real surprise is that the strongest songs are the original Moore-penned ballads, as Moore gives powerful and atmospheric performances (both vocally and as a guitarist) on "Gonna Rain Today," "No Reason to Cry," and a solid horn-augmented remake of one of his best songs, "Midnight Blues," from what is easily his best album, 1990s million-selling Still Got the Blues. The James and Dixon covers ("Done Something Wrong" and "You Know My Love" respectively) seem disappointingly by-the-numbers, while the Rush song, "All Your Love," fares a bit better, but Moore's own compositions shine brightest here, giving him plenty of room to weep on the old Les Paul, which is a very good thing, since vocals have never been Moore's strongest suit and his lyrics are often on the slight side. All of that vanishes when his guitar takes over a song, and on the instrumental "Cut It Out," Moore's muscular guitar tone says as much or more about life inside the blues as any of the vocal numbers.

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