Monday, December 27, 2010

Justin Moore: He Can Kick Your Ass

Why I like Justin Moore
(American-born simple man with a Southern drawl)

At first you might think dude’s just a big redneck with swagger with an Arkansas accent so thick you could drive a truck across it who sings about all the usual topics as if he’s checking them off some “How To Be A Hick” list. I love my small town? Check. I own guns? Check. I fuck my girl in my pickup truck? Check. I could kick your ass? Check.

He looks the part, too: handsome, strong-jawed face set off by his cream colored hat; lean, broad shoulders whose muscles teach a shirt what a shirt should be (usually open to the third snap); slim hips accentuated by a big belt buckle whose purpose appears not to be to hold his jeans up but to draw your eye to his crotch; boots.

But it’s what he does with all this that makes Justin Moore compelling. He can move in such a way as to ooze masculinity onstage, and knows, unlike a lot of his country contemporaries, to open out his arms when he sings (calling the audience in and giving his ribcage room to deliver the big notes). 

It’s the kind of stage prowl that has traditionally made women wet their panties since the dawn of rock ‘n roll, and it looks like he comes by it naturally. It’s not something you can see in his videos, where he’s usually standing in one spot singing to camera – but you can see it in abundance when he’s in some small smoky club or treading an amphitheater’s boards in YouTube clips. I saw him do his thing on a giant stage from a hillside this summer, and though he was as small as an ant, every nuance of his movement came across loud and clear.

I know I started off with what a sex god he is, but the real reason I like Justin Moore is that he can sing the living shit out a song, and he writes them too. They are packed full of gusto and melody, and it seems that the set he’s got lined up for his second album push the strengths of his first batch in exciting ways. Take “Outlaws Like Me,” for instance: it’s a ballad backed only with piano, yet you don’t really realize that’s all it is until the end because the sound is so rich. Any guy who can deliver that strong a vocal performance against a few tinkling keys has some skill and the balls to back it up.

I like seeing the small-club sets you can find scattered all over YouTube, because that feels like his natural comfort spot, close to the crowd — but check out his radio performances too, where he’s just popping out his songs on cue while strumming an acoustic guitar. Look at how he delivers "I Could Kick Your Ass" when he's doing it in an office to promote his record HERE, and then again to a crowd once he's made a hit out of it HERE. That's the performer I'm talking about. Again: anyone who can pull off this sort of on the spot, unaccompanied, unaffected singing (always in time; always on key) is a winner in my book. He covers the classics the way you want them covered: true to a fault. Check out “Bad Company.”

I slowly fell in love with his first big hit, “Small Town USA” not because it was yet another paean to God-fearing regionalism that defines so many of the small-town songs, but because despite the cliché of the lyric, I found myself signing along to it loud and hearty every time it came on my radio. I am a girl who looks ridiculous signing and gesticulating to “I Could Kick Your Ass,” but it’s glorious to sing. Same thing with his less blustery song, “Grandpa.” His homage to good old boy romance, “Like There’s No Tomorrow” is about as sexy as it gets. “Get in a rhythm / Nobody’s near and listening” my ass. We're listening. (Especially to that last note -- wow.)

He’s signed to an imprint of Big Machine records (The Valory Music Co.), the label who hit the jackpot with Taylor Swift. They seem to be an outfit that encourages big-hook songs of the kind that Moore excels in delivering.

His debut, self-titled record, Justin Moore, does not have a weak song on it, and was the album that got the most play in my house this year. His next album (The Boot?) is the one I most anticipate arriving in 2011. 

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